Lamberts shines for Saints as Leeds hold Hammers

Rickie Lambert struck his fourth hat-trick of the season as Southampton staged a late fightback to defeat Millwall and remain top of the npower Championship standings.

Rickie Lambert struck his fourth hat-trick of the season as Southampton staged a late fightback to defeat Millwall and remain top of the npower Championship standings.

Lambert, who was named npower Championship Player of the Year earlier this week, gave his side a 16th-minute lead but Millwall hit back and were leading 2-1 within 12 minutes following an own goal from Jose Fonte and a Paul Robinson strike.

Millwall retained that advantage until the 85th minute but, just when the leaders looked in danger of suffering their first defeat in 10 matches, Saints star Lambert turned the match on its head with two penalties in three minutes to earn his side a 3-2 win and take his goal tally for the season to 28.

The last-gasp victory kept Southampton two points clear of Reading, who continued their superb form with a 4-0 away mauling of Barnsley.

All four goals came in the second half with Jobi McAnuff (47), Jem Karacan (49, 65) and Jason Roberts (90) helping Brian McDermott’s side claim their ninth win in 10 league matches.

The Royals are now three points clear of third-placed West Ham, who were held 1-1 at Leeds.

Leeds had looked set to end West Ham’s seven-match unbeaten run when Luciano Becchio nodded the hosts ahead with seven minutes to go, but loan defender Danny Collins netted a last-minute equaliser to earn the Hammers a potentially crucial point.

Birmingham climbed back up to fourth spot after recording a 3-0 home win over Middlesbrough, who slip to sixth but are level on 59 points with the Blues.

Winger Chris Burke set up Birmingham’s opening two goals for Nikola Zigic and Marlon King to take his tally to 13 assists this term – the highest of any Championship player – before Keith Fahey wrapped up the scoring on the hour.

The other side currently in the play-off spots are Blackpool, who moved up to fifth with a 3-1 home win over 10-man Brighton.

Brighton had taken a seventh-minute lead through Joe Mattock but Blackpool drew level through Ian Evatt before Kevin Phillips put the hosts ahead before the break.

The visitors lost Gonzalo Jara Reyes to a 57th-minute red card, and Blackpool added a third late when Phillips struck his second to take his tally to 15 for the campaign.

Doncaster, who halted Reading’s eight-match winning run on Tuesday, remain in trouble near the foot of the table after going down 2-1 at home to Derby.

Derby took a 2-0 lead through Theo Robinson and Gareth Roberts goals at the start of either half, and Doncaster could only net a 67th-minute consolation through El-Hadji Diouf.

Doncaster slip into the bottom two after Coventry claimed a point from a 0-0 draw at Watford, while bottom-placed Portsmouth also played out a goalless draw against fellow strugglers Bristol City.

Crystal Palace’s home match with Hull was another to finish 0-0, but there were five goals at Portman Road where Ipswich beat Peterborough 3-2 in pulsating contest.

The hosts, who lost 7-1 in the reverse fixture, scored through Grant Leadbitter (15), Daryl Murphy (77) and Aaron Cresswell (85) with Peterborough’s goals coming from Tyrone Barnett (34) and Emile Sinclair (83).

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