Football: Beattie gains sweet revenge

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The Independent Online
Southampton 2 Leicester City 1

EXCHANGE IS no robbery, so they say, but that is not how Blackburn will be feeling just now.

Last summer they sold James Beattie to Southampton for pounds 1m, having paid pounds 7.5m to take the virtual novice Kevin Davies off their hands. As the two clubs exchanged places at the bottom of the Premiership, courtesy of a goal by Beattie that was almost too good to be true, Rovers must have been feeling something like Southampton did when they sold on the former Saint Alan Shearer to Newcastle for an pounds 11.7m profit.

Clearly last summer's swap deal is not the best bit of business Jack Walker as ever done, what with Davies long since surplus to requirements at Ewood Park, but Beattie has not exactly been pulling up any trees in the New Forest either, as a return of three goals in 36 League appearances prior to Saturday would indicate.

After he sidefooted a sublime winning volley over Kasey Keller, even his own manager had to ask him: "Did you really mean that?" By Dave Jones' own admission, the strapping Beattie is more inclined to "take the leather off the ball" than demonstrate such finesse. Needless to say, Beattie replied that he did.

It may have been the sort of goal that the former England Under-21 striker has been threatening to score for some time, but it was certainly not the goal which Southampton had been threatening to score in this match.

For an hour they were so much second best to Leicester that the uninformed would never have guessed that it was the team in red and white stripes who were threatened with expulsion after 21 years in the top flight. Leicester's motivation was a credit to their manager, Martin O'Neill.

Having twice been released by the Saints as a boy, Steve Guppy's motivation came from within and for a while it looked as if his crossing ability allied to Leicester's aerial superiority would make Saints pay dearly for their oversight. Consolation for the Leicester winger came in the shape of the ultimate compliment from Jones. "The crosses he puts in are on a par with Beckham," he said.

Eventually the heat of the afternoon, and, dare one say, the thought of where they might soon be spending such afternoons, began to take its toll on Leicester's running game, allowing Southampton to haul themselves back into the match.

A rare moment of slackness in the visitors' defence had allowed Chris Marsden to cancel out Ian Marshall's goal - his third in three games - with an almost identical header, when, with 14 minutes remaining, Beattie was presented with his chance by a free-kick struck with stunning accuracy from the centre circle by Francis Benali.

Once again The Dell had come to Southampton's rescue, this win making it 20 points out of 24 from their last eight home games - compared to one point from 24 away. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. Judging from their fans' reaction to climbing out of the bottom three for the first time this season one might have thought that they were in control of their own destiny once more. They are not.

The assumption seems to be that Blackburn are incapable of taking advantage of their game in hand by beating Manchester United at home. If it were not for the fact that Alex Ferguson may need to do himself a favour above all, he might be less inclined to do Jones one, had he listened to what Jones had to say on the subject of the privileged.

"I haven't got the millions to go out and strengthen like Manchester United and Arsenal," said Jones, "and all of a sudden they're great managers, but it does help when you've got a little bit of money sometimes."

Should Blackburn end up getting relegated, Walker might beg to differ.

Goals: Marshall (18) 0-1; Marsden (37) 1-1; Beattie (76) 2-1.

Southampton (4-4-2): Moss; Hiley, (Lundekvam, 23), Monkou, Dodd, Benali; Kachloul, M Hughes, Marsden, Le Tissier (D Hughes, 53); Beattie, Pahars (Ostenstad, 71). Substitutes not used: Beresford, Jones (gk).

Leicester City (3-4-3): Keller; Sinclair, Elliott, Kaamark; Impey, Savage, Lennon, Guppy; Heskey, Cottee (Miller, 65), Marshall. Substitutes not used: Walsh, Campbell, Zagorakis, Arpheexad (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Sevenoaks).

Bookings: Leicester: Elliott, Lennon. Southampton: Ostenstad.

Man of the match: Lennon.

Attendance: 15,228.