Rickie Lambert may be doing his bit to conserve Southampton’s Premier League status, but it is the involvement of Jack Cork that could well prove the biggest factor in the club avoiding an immediate return to the Championship.
No Englishman has netted more than Lambert’s 10 Premier League strikes this season and his recent winner at Aston Villa could prove especially valuable come May.
However, it is the return of Cork from a knee injury that has brought about the dramatic turnaround in Southampton’s fortunes.
The Saints have lost just two of their last 13 Premier League games to give themselves four points breathing space from the bottom three and as a result have drifted to 15/8 to be relegated.
It is no coincidence that this run coincides with Cork’s comeback, as they had taken just one point from a possible 15 in the five games previous.
In total, Southampton have lost nine of the 12 fixtures in which Cork has been absent in all competitions this season, which is compared to three defeats in the 15 games in which he has featured.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the 5-1 reverse against Chelsea in the FA Cup came when Nigel Adkins opted to use Cork at right-back and he is far more of an asset sitting in front of the back four.
New Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino opted to play Cork in midfield in his first game with Everton and his ability to keep play ticking over alongside the more combative Morgan Schneiderlin showed further signs of becoming a promising partnership.
Furthermore, with this pair sitting deep, there is added licence for chief creators Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana, when fit, to supply the ammunition for Lambert to continue his scoring run.
Certainly, the 4/11 that Southampton stay up looks a far safer proposition than their relegation price as long as Cork remains in Pochettino’s team.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date