Southampton dealt former manager Nigel Adkins a heavy blow in his bid to guide bottom club Reading to Premier League safety with a 2-0 away win yesterday.
Jay Rodriguez gave Southampton the lead against the run of play toward the end of the first half at the Madejski Stadium and, as the hosts’ early momentum faded, Adam Lallana wrapped up victory in the 72nd minute.
It was Reading’s seventh consecutive defeat and left them seven points from safety with six games to play. They have also played at least a game more than all the teams immediately above them.
While Adkins was left to contemplate the size of the task before him after defeat on his home debut, his successor at Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino, appears to have succeeded in steering the Saints to safety.
The south-coast club have now won three games in succession and sit seven points above the bottom three in 11th place.
Danny Guthrie almost created an opener for Reading in the fourth minute with a free-kick that Sean Morrison headed over the bar.
Royals’ striker Adam Le Fondre was then guilty of a horrendous miss midway through the first half, hoisting the ball high and wide after a posse of visiting defenders failed to clear the ball.
Reading winger Hal Robson-Kanu had a penalty appeal waved away after going down under the challenge of Jos Hooiveld, before Guthrie teed up Adrian Mariappa for a header that was well saved by Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
The visitors spent much of the first half hour penned inside their own half, but in the 34th minute they hit Reading with a classic sucker-punch.
From a central position, Rodriguez sprayed a pass wide to Rickie Lambert and then drove into the box to meet his teammate’s lobbed return pass.
Adam Federici charged out to meet him, but Rodriguez got there just before the Reading goalkeeper and bravely prodded the ball home.
Suddenly the Reading defense was full of holes. Rodriguez smacked a shot against the crossbar and then tested Federici with a low shot that the goalkeeper had to palm away.
The rebound fell kindly for Gaston Ramirez, but he somehow contrived to place the rebound wide of the open goal.
Pochettino’s men maintained a firm grip on proceedings after the break and substitute Lallana put the game beyond Reading with 18 minutes left, steaming onto Rodriguez’s chipped pass and calmly steering the ball inside the near post.