SOUTHAMPTON 1 TOTTENHAM 0
By Richard Jolly
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Delap was once top scorer in his Derby days but his volley doubled Southampton's midfield's tally for the season and decided an eventful encounter in a recent rivalry. But Glenn Hoddle, the source of the rancour, did not return to Southampton and neither did Dean Richards, the defender whose departure brought the South Coast club £8.1 million.
The consequences of Richards' sale were felt. Fabrice Fernandes, signed from the proceeds, should have been the midfielder on the scoresheet and Antti Niemi, another whose arrival was financed by Richards' move, frustrated Spurs before and afterwards with top-quality saves.
Easing Southampton's reliance on James Beattie and Kevin Phillips for goals was Sturrock's objective. Delap's strike was all the more necessary as his otherwise excellent strikers could not supply a finish.
It was not for a lack of chances. Beattie reacted quickest to a mis-hit Delap shot but was denied by Kasey Keller, who then kept out Phillips. Six goals in eight games have brought Phillips' name into the England reckoning and, five minutes before half time, it was almost seven in nine. Fernandes, swapping flanks, threaded an inviting pass, Phillips escaped the attentions of Gary Doherty and lobbed Keller and past his post.
Then an airborn Beattie applied power better than direction as he volleyed Paul Telfer's cross over the bar. After two goals in three months, Beattie is below his buccaneering best. He scored a free kick in Southampton's 3-1 win at White Hart Lane in September, but curled one past the post here.
After their February goalfest, Spurs had only scored once in three games, but David Pleat fielded his three top scorers and the forward trio of of Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Frederic Kanoute all drew saves from Niemi. As Michael Brown later discovered, the Finn's handling was as safe as ever.
The inside-left channel was proving a fruitful avenue for the quicksilver Defoe, but two rather slower Saints supplied his clearest chance. Jason Dodd thumped his backpass at Telfer, whose attempt to control gave Defoe a run at goal. Niemi earned his full backs' gratitude by pushing the £7 million striker's shot past the post.
But Southampton continued to create more chances and should have led just after the interval. If Sturrock wondered why his midfield were so unproductive, the stumbling Fernandes seemed to provide the answer with a lack of conviction when Beattie presented him with a glorious opporunity
The winger sidefooted wide from eight yards as Keller scrambled across his goal, extending the collective drought.
But Delap, the one constant in Saints' midfield quartet which showed three changes from the defeat at Portsmouth, answered his manager's entreaties in spectacular style. Claus Lundekvam, himself still searching for a first Saints goal, provided the header for Delap to volley a first goal in two years
Jamie Redknapp almost responded by opening his account for the season, with Niemi again denying Tottenham, while Southampton almost added to their list of unusual goalscorers. Delap and David Prutton shot wide and Keller kept out a Danny Higginbotham free kick.
And on a day where other records were maintained - Sturrock has won both his games at St Mary's and Tottenham have lost all four of their's - a goal unusual in every respect was responsible.