Keeper blunder helps leaders

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SOUTHAMPTON manager Nigel Adkins admitted Watford debutant Tomasz Kuszczak’s error allowed his side to make an ideal start as they returned to the top of the Championship with a 3-0 win.

Rickie Lambert scored his third hat-trick of the season as Saints eased to victory at Vicarage Road, although he had Kuszczak to thank in large parts for his first goal. The Poland international’s first meaningful involvement since his loan move from Manchester United was to come for a Jose Fonte cross but he got nowhere near and Lambert headed home.

A first-time finish made it two eight minutes later before the 30-year-old completed his treble from the penalty spot in the second half.

Adkins admitted it offered an ideal opening for his side and said: “We got off to a good start. We thought the new goalkeeper might want to try and stamp his authority and probably look to come for an early cross - we didn’t expect it to work out as well as that, I must admit.”

Opposite number Sean Dyche said: “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.”

West Ham are second, one point behind Saints but with a game in hand, following their 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace at Upton Park. Sections of the Hammers fans, though, voiced their frustration, booing the team off, which, according to manager Sam Allardyce, upset some players.

He said: “One or two of the players in the dressing room were disappointed to get booed because we are at the top of the league.”

Reading manager Brian McDermott was not looking too far ahead after the Royals won 2-0 at Middlesbrough to move up to third.

Noel Hunt bundled home from a corner before Ian Harte sealed victory with a sizzling free-kick.

McDermott said: “We are up to third now but we aren’t getting carried away. After six games we were bottom of the league and we didn’t get carried away about that too much either.” It means Boro slip out of the play-off places.

Struggling Nottingham Forest claimed a 2-1 victory at Birmingham thanks to two goals by Dexter Blackstock, Chris Burke scoring for Blues.

Forest boss Steve Cotterill said: “It is a huge fillip for us but at Forest we are humble about our victories as we have not had many.”

It was Blues’ first home league defeat this season as they slip to fifth and boss Chris Hughton said: “Losing our unbeaten record is tough to take but you have to give Forest credit.”

Blackpool won 3-1 win at Bristol City despite the Robins taking the lead through Jon Stead.