Claridge pushes falling Saints
Southampton 2 Ostenstad 32, Van Gobbel 48 Leicester City 2 Heskey 46, Claridge 70 Attendance: 15,044
Southampton never exactly looked comfortable on an afternoon of largely forgettable football, but at 2-1 up with 20 minutes left three points were there to be secured. But when Leicester's Neil Lennon broke to the by- line, the Southampton defence dithered, and from his cross the ball bobbled in off Steve Claridge.
The name on the Southampton team-sheet everyone was waiting to hear confirmed was that of Matt Le Tissier, whose absence from the midweek trip to Chelsea had been the source of a dispute between his club and national managers. Which of Graeme Souness and Glenn Hoddle had the stronger claim to the moral high ground in the matter of Le Tissier's fitness was presumably of less concern to the majority in The Dell than the fact that their star player was back when they needed him most.
Southampton have regularly been down among the strugglers come the end of recent seasons, but having dropped into bottom place after the Chelsea defeat they were asking even more of themselves than usual. From the comparative safety of just below mid-table, Leicester could afford to take a more relaxed view. This was their last match before the Coca-Cola Cup final in a fortnight's time against Middlesbrough. How much would they want to know about it?
Certainly it was Southampton who made most of the early running. The trouble was, there wasn't much passing to go with it. Possession was repeatedly squandered by both sides, and for half an hour neither goalkeeper was significantly involved. Everything was a midfield muddle, the haphazard nature of proceedings summed up when Garry Parker brought down his own man, Steve Claridge, in the Southampton box.
The crowd grew impatient. "Have a shot," they chorused. Within a minute, the message got through and Egil Ostenstad brought out a diving save from Kevin Poole, the goalkeeper drafted in to replace Kasey Keller who was on World Cup duty. Another minute later, Eyal Berkovic crossed from the left and Ostenstad met it with a crisp drive that sped past Poole.
The goal marked an improvement in quality. Southampton were moving forward with greater understanding, and in Berkovic they had a player who had always risen above the general standard and was now dictating much of the play.
A minute into the second half, however, Leicester were level. No goal of the season this, just a series of six-yard-box ricochets following a corner by Parker, the last of which saw the ball bounce in off Emile Heskey.
Southampton had paid the price for some inept defending, only for Leicester to match it three minutes later. When Le Tissier's corner swung over there was barely a challenge to Alan Neilsen as he rose to head the ball down, and none at all to Van Gobbel before he prodded his side back into the lead with his first goal in the Premiership.
Latest in Sport
Jay Hart sex tape: Clitheroe footballer sacked after being filmed having sex with unknown blonde woman in manager's dug-out
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Radamel Falcao to Liverpool: Agent of Manchester United striker 'makes contact' with Anfield
Cesc Fabregas in Premier League title dig at Arsenal after pointing out '27 year wait'
Mario Balotelli incident leaves Brendan Rodgers fuming after Liverpool's FA Cup exit to Aston Villa
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...
£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...