Premier League

Lambert extends Saints contract

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Thu, 21 Mar 2013 19:51:00

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has called on his side to hit Russia with the same type of performance that took them to the brink of victory in Portugal.

Davis and company defied the odds to claim a 1-1 draw in Porto five months ago, and were 11 minutes away from a famous win.

Walsall striker Will Grigg (hamstring) is set to miss the matches against both Russia and Israel. The Saddlers star was set to start with Kyle Lafferty suspended but has now been ruled out.

Burnley hitman Martin Paterson could start, although Inverness striker Billy McKay and Aberdeen's Niall McGinn and Josh Magennis are also options.

Fulham defender or midfielder Chris Baird is also suspended for Northern Ireland.

Results since the draw with Portugal have been disappointing, with home draws against both Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, but Davis is looking for another vintage underdog display.

"Of course, the going to be very difficult but we will use our performance in Portugal as the benchmark," he said.

"Giving the fans a night like that game in Portugal was a massive lift but we won't underestimate just how tough it is going to be against Russia.

"Like I have said, I think the performances have been good without getting a little bit of fortune along the way. What is important for us is to use everything we have to our advantage.

"When we played in Russia we didn't see a great deal of the ball and that might be the same again, so when we do get chances we know we are going to have to be clinical."

Michael O'Neill has yet to win a match since taking over as national manager at the start of 2012, meaning Davis is also looking for a first success since taking over as captain from Aaron Hughes at the same time.

The 31-year-old has established himself as a firm fans' favourite at St Mary's since joining from Bristol Rovers in August 2009.

Lambert has scored 101 goals for Southampton and his 13-goal haul this season makes him the top English scorer in the Barclays Premier League.

The striker's contract had been due to expire at the end of next season but has now been extended by a further two years.

"I'm over the moon to sign with Southampton for another three years," Lambert told the club's official website, www.saintsfc.co.uk.

"I am already enjoying myself massively at this club and the aim now is to stay on for another three years and help push the club on further than where it already is.

"There is a lot of ambition in this club for the next few years and that is one of the main reasons that I have signed the contract - and that is why I want to end my career here.

"The core of players who have been together for two or three years are going to be here for another three or four years and that is a really good feeling.

"We all have the same ambition and [executive chairman] Nicola Cortese's ambition for this club drives us all on as well, so it really helps the club with where we are now and it will help with where we want to go."

Lambert's contract extension follows recent new deals handed to Morgan Schneiderlin, Jason Puncheon and Kelvin Davis - others to have played a key part in Southampton's rise from npower League One to the top flight.

"Rickie Lambert is a very special player for Southampton Football Club," Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino said.

"To have scored over 100 goals is a remarkable achievement, and one which he has made possible thanks to hard work and dedication.

"In my time at the club I have been impressed by his mentality and commitment to improving himself in training - attributes that have allowed him to adapt to the Premier League so well.

"I am delighted that Rickie has committed himself to the club for a further three years, and have no doubts that he will continue to deliver for Southampton as we look to push on to the next level."

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