Adkins hails battling Saints

Lambert's treble sends Saints top of the Championship

Nigel Adkins: Was delighted with the way his side battled to a 3-0 win at Watford

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Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has praised his side's battling qualities as they returned to the top of the Championship with a 3-0 win at Watford.

The Saints took advantage of West Ham's home draw with Crystal Palace earlier in the day to nudge a point clear at the summit.

Rickie Lambert was the hero, hitting his third hat-trick of the season in a relatively comfortable match for the Saints at Vicarage Road.

Adkins admitted after the game that it was not his side's most fluent display, but he was delighted with the way they battled to victory.

"We've come away from home knowing the pitch was going to be lively, against a very spirited Watford side and for me the very, very pleasing side of it is we've done the horrible things that you've got to do in football and we've done them very, very well," he said.

"Everybody knows we can play good passing football but we've come away and grafted and ground out a very good result today.

"He's a talented, talented football player but we have won this season when Rickie's been out.

"Rickie was sent off at Brighton for a terrible refereeing decision and we lost him for three games.

"We won two of them so it's not as if we can't win without Rickie, but he is an exceptionally good football player who not only scores goals but creates goals."

When quizzed whether Lambert was "irreplaceable", Adkins added: "He's a talented, talented football player but we have won this season when Rickie's been out.

"Rickie was sent off at Brighton for a terrible refereeing decision and we lost him for three games.

"We won two of them so it's not as if we can't win without Rickie, but he is an exceptionally good football player who not only scores goals but creates goals."

Performance levels

Watford boss Sean Dyche was left disappointed as he felt his side had dipped below the standards they had set themselves in recent weeks.

"I'm disappointed to have not performed really," he said. "You can't guarantee results any week and certainly not when a top-of-the-table side come to town but we pride ourselves on performance levels and we feel that today we came away from performance levels and obviously against anyone that can undo you but certainly against the market leaders.

"We wanted to make changes to freshen it up and give a bit of zip to it and we just came away from it today.

"We're not the finished article, we're not the real deal and that's a stark reminder of how important individual and collective performances are.

"Part of our development is not always going to be happy times and we've had spells this season where it hasn't been and we've come through them and we'll work to do that again because two games ago we were on the back of a lovely little run and performing nicely."

Dyche also leapt to the defence of on-loan goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who joined from Manchester United this week but marked his debut with an error that led to Lambert's opening goal.

"He's an experienced man. Tomasz has come in bright and breezy and made some good saves today," Dyche added.

"You all know part of a goalkeeper's life is the odd time it doesn't go right for you, so he'll know that and there's no issue with that.

"That wasn't the reason why we didn't perform today, although we'd started quite brightly up until that point and it was just a bit of a flattener really.

"We collectively weren't as good as we can be today."