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End-of-season report: Southampton

Sports Mole looks back over a season which saw Southampton make a successful return to the top flight.

Southampton were one of the favourites for relegation back to the Championship before the season began.

The bookmakers were wrong though, as the Saints secured Premier League football for next season, despite changing their manager from Nigel Adkins to Mauricio Pochettino earlier this year.

Sports Mole takes a look back at the club's first season back in the top flight since 2005.

August

Southampton could not have asked for a more difficult start to the campaign as they faced champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Despite a spirited performance, which saw the Saints go 2-1 ahead in the second half, two further goals from City gave them a 3-2 victory.

Southampton's first home game of the season didn't go well either as they were beaten 2-0 by Wigan Athletic, a side expected to be battling relegation alongside them at the end of the season.

However, the Capital One cup provided a positive distraction from their league exploits as Adkins's side saw off Stevenage 4-1 in the first round.

September

Two further league defeats followed in September, as Manchester United won 3-2 at St Mary's with Robin van Persie's late header, before the Saints were thrashed 6-1 at Arsenal.

In their next game Southampton finally registered their first win of the season as a Rickie Lambert brace helped them on their way to a 4-1 success over Aston Villa.

After beating Sheffield Wednesday in the second round of the League Cup, Adkins's men ended September with a 3-1 defeat at Everton.

Rickie Lambert© PA Photos

October

Southampton failed to register a win in October, drawing against Fulham before losing to West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur.

The South Coast club were also knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Championship side Leeds United, who won 3-0 at Elland Road.

November

Southampton lost just once in five games through November, recording impressive wins over Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United.

Draws with Norwich City and Swansea City were accompanied by a 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

December

After losing 1-0 at Liverpool at the beginning of December, Southampton bounced back to beat Reading 1-0 with Jason Puncheon's strike.

A 1-0 defeat to Sunderland was followed by draws against Fulham and Stoke City.

Southampton manager Nigel Atkins on the touchline on December 29, 2012© PA Photos

January

Southampton began 2013 by holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw before embarking on a three-match unbeaten run, winning 1-0 at Aston Villa and coming from behind to draw 2-2 at Chelsea.

However, with the club three points clear of the relegation zone, chairman Nicola Cortese decided to sack Adkins and replace him with former Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino's first game in charge was a 0-0 draw against Everton, which was followed up by a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

Southampton were also knocked out of the FA Cup in January, losing 5-1 at home to Chelsea in the third round.

February

After a 2-2 draw with Wigan at the beginning of February, Pochettino picked up his first victory when Southampton beat Manchester City 3-1 at St Mary's.

However, a 4-2 defeat to Newcastle the following week kept the Saints three points ahead of the drop zone.

March

Southampton looked to be in trouble when QPR won 2-1 at St Mary's at the beginning of March, but two wins and a draw from their next three games eased their relegation fears.

After a 0-0 draw at Norwich City, Southampton beat Liverpool 3-1 with goals from Lambert, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez.

Two weeks later they surprised many by beating another side chasing European football in the form of Chelsea. Rodriguez and Lambert were on the scoresheet once more in the 2-1 victory.

Rickie Lambert is joined by team mates as he celebrates scoring his team's second against Chelsea on March 30, 2013© PA Photos

April

April began well for the Saints as they won 2-0 against Reading, who were now under the management of Nigel Adkins.

They continued their unbeaten run of form with draws against West Ham and Swansea before suffering a 3-0 defeat to West Brom, a game Southampton finished with nine men following red cards for Gaston Ramirez and Danny Fox.

May

Southampton were beaten by Tottenham with a goal from former Saints player Gareth Bale, before securing Premier League safety with a 1-1 draw away to Sunderland.

The same scoreline was then achieved as the season ended with the spoils being shared with Stoke City on the South Coast. On the scoresheet for visiting Stoke was former Southampton frontman Peter Crouch.

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