Southampton promoted to Premier League after beating Coventry

By Nabil HassanBBC Sport at St Mary’s
Adkins' Saints march up to Premier League

Southampton returned to the Premier League after a seven-year absence with goals from Billy Sharp, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana securing promotion on the final day of the Championship season.

Saints knew victory over Coventry would send them up and, despite a nervous start, they were worthy winners.

Sharp diverted Lallana's volley past keeper Joe Murphy after 16 minutes, and when Fonte headed his first goal of the season three minutes later, victory was all but sealed with nearly 70 minutes left to play.

Dutch defender Hooiveld drilled home from close range after the break, while Lallana's tap-in was the cue for the St Mary's party to get well and truly under way.

Nigel Adkins's side have maintained their position in the top two of the Championship all season but West Ham had closed to within two points as each side had one game to play.

And West Ham did what they could to try and snatch promotion from Saints with a 2-1 victory over Hull on Saturday, but in the end it proved irrelevant.

Just seven years ago, Southampton were relegated from English football's top flight and in that time a spell in administration and a couple of seasons in League One have followed.

But now, thanks to significant investment from late owner Marcus Liebherr with chairman Nicola Cortese at the helm, Saints have been able to build a team that is now back in the Premier League.

This season's campaign has been built on the 31 goals of striker Rickie Lambert, but Lallana's contribution from midfield has been just as significant.

He will be a key player for Saints in the Premier League, but it is the partnership of Lambert and Sharp, purchased in January from Doncaster, that is showing real promise and could be key in their attempts to stay up next season.

The pair now have 50 goals between them this season, and it was Sharp's opener that sent them on their way. He was on hand to divert Lallana's goal-bound 18-yard volley past Murphy from close range.

Coventry themselves had started brightly with Gary McSheffrey forcing an early save from Kelvin Davis.

While Sharp's opener calmed the nerves, Fonte's diving header meant Southampton's fans could start to believe.

Saints had second-half chances to increase their lead, Guly do Prado with a header and Lambert with a fierce drive, but it was Hooiveld who got the third, smashing home from close range for his eighth goal of the season.

Lallana got in on the act soon after with a neat side-foot at the back post from Lambert's knock-down for his 13th of the season.

The final 25 minutes were a procession for Saints and, after seven years away, they are back in the Premier League.

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