Football: Chelsea slide continues: Hoddle's bleak prospect

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Southampton. . .3

Chelsea. . . . .1

A BELEAGUERED Glenn Hoddle, confined to the dug-out with an injured ankle, watched the slump of his Chelsea team continue against fellow relegation candidates Southampton. Chelsea's last win was 11 games ago, and the hope which greeted Hoddle's arrival at Stamford Bridge has been replaced by the bleak reality of a long battle for survival.

The confidence which had brought consecutive victories against Manchester United and Liverpool has long since evaporated. Chelsea employed a five-man defence at The Dell, leaving Mark Stein alone up front, looking for his first goal since arriving from Stoke eight games ago, but their defending was at times inept. A free-kick from Southampton's Mickey Adams found Tommy Widdrington alone in the six-yard box for a tap-in to open the scoring. Other chances soon followed.

This generosity was also evident in Southampton's back line. Francis Benali, in central defence because of injuries, had a wretched afternoon, allowing Stein several scoring opportunities. His moment finally arrived four minutes before the interval. A through-ball from Eddie Newton was left by Benali, Stein's clever lob leaving David Beasant stranded.

However, any hopes Chelsea entertained of celebrating their first away victory of 1993 were dashed in a second half dominated by the home side.

Paul Allen's probing runs were causing chaos in Chelsea's defence, and it was his cross from the byline that enabled Iain Dowie to claim his first goal since August after 66 minutes. It was no surprise when the substitute, Frankie Bennett, hit Southampton's third goal. Six months ago Bennett was playing non-League football with Halesowen Town, earning his living as a wine waiter. His pace and touch suggests a player of genuine potential.

Southampton's manager, Ian Branfoot, spoke afterwards of the importance of confidence, a quality apparently missing in the Chelsea dressing-room, whence Hoddle emerged grim-faced, refusing to comment on his team's effort and commitment.

'We have to show character now,' he said. 'We're in a dogfight and have to turn things around as quickly as possible. A win will do it for us but right now, we're wondering where that win will come from.' For Chelsea, the omens for 1994 are far from encouraging.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Wood, Benali, Adams; Allen, Reid (Bennett, 63), Widdrington, Le Tissier; Maddison, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Moore, Andrews (gk).

Chelsea (5-4-1): Kharin; Clarke, Burley, Sinclair, Kjeldbjerg, Hall; Wise, Peacock, Newton, Hopkin (Shipperley, 72); Stein. Substitutes not used: Spackman, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland).