Phillips seals derby win
By Richard Jolly. Last Updated: 13/11/04 1:50pm
Last time Southampton won a Premiership match, they promptly parted company with their manager. For almost three months, Steve Wigley was unable to see if chairman Rupert Lowe was setting a precedent by sacking Paul Sturrock but finally, after almost three months, Southampton have recorded their second league win.
Kevin Phillips, one of five players dropped after the Watford fiasco, climbed off the bench to head a derby winner as Wigley's former club Portsmouth were beaten 2-1.
After their Carling Cup catastrophe, a local derby had a galvanising effect for Southampton. So, too, did the return of four of their premier players from injury. James Beattie brought leadership in attack while club captain Jason Dodd, another substitute, provided the winner.
But a newcomer had an equally important role, Dexter Blackstock scoring Southampton's equaliser, rewarding Wigley's gamble on the untried teenager.
Contrite after Tuesday, Southampton were competitive on Saturday. Graeme Le Saux made a typically sparky return at left back, overlapping enthuasiastically, and Rory Delap imposed himself in midfield where the unselfish promptings of Paul Telfer made him the most influential individual. And Dodd, with poise if not pace, played his part too.
His curling free kick gave Phillips an instant impact and capped a Saints comeback necessitated by a comical own goal. Kamikaze defending started at Watford and continued as Andreas Jakobsson's own goal gave Portsmouth a 12th-minute lead.
A hopeful punt from Dejan Stefanovic exposed a lack of communication in the Southampton defence and Kasey Keller's unwise foray off his line resulted in Jakobsson heading into the unguarded net.
The on-loan American redeemed himself in injury-time with a fine save to deny Matthew Taylor an equaliser but injury was added to insult for the Swede, hurt in a clash of heads with Lomano LuaLua and replaced by Dodd.
But Southampton only trailed for six minutes. Blackstock's equaliser came from a scrappy move that compensated in controversy for a lack of quality. After Gary O'Neil appeared to handle, Telfer's lofted cross struck Beattie on the elbow. Undeterred, Blackstock swivelled to score his first Premiership goal.
With parity restored, Southampton settled down and Portsmouth posed a threat on the counter-attack. Pompey's pacey forwards against Southampton's veteran full backs provided predictably one-sided races. LuaLua twice found room to shoot but picked out Keller on both occasions. Ricardo Fuller, who came on for the injured Yakubu Aiyegbeni, almost found his strike partner for a tap-in.
Amdy Faye, feisty in the midfield battle, picked out David Unsworth, who blazed wide. Despite the height of Unsworth and the visiting defence, Southampton's set pieces almost earned them a goal. The unmarked Claus Lundekvam headed a Delap throw over and then Shaka Hislop denied Blackstock a second.
But a Portsmouth corner should have resulted in the lead for Harry Redknapp's side. Patrik Berger took it, Arjan de Zeeuw flicked on and Stefanovic somehow headed over from four yards. Then the mercurial Berger hit an unstoppable shot; the ball rebounded off the bar, Wigley introduced Phillips and Southampton took the ascendancy, but rarely has the margin between victory and defeat been narrower.
Anders Svensson almost conjured a winner; Phillips then did and while the Premiership table suggests the balance of power on the south coast has swung Portsmouth's way, Southampton's substitute did his best to counter that theory.
Taylor kept attention focused on the pitch until the end after a week where the Hampshire rivals have been united in uncertainty with off-field distractions threatening to overshadow just their third Premiership derby. The future of Redknapp, the current Premiership Manager of the Month, is a subject for some debate; that of Wigley, with Gerard Houllier and Glenn Hoddle mooted, rather more.
This was billed as a match that Southampton's under-fire head coach could not lose. But was it win or bust for Wigley? Or win and bust?
|Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||5||3|
|Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6||8|
|Total Fouls Conceded||14||15|
Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
|5||West Ham United||18||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||18||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||18||17|