Football: Le Tissier's touch

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . . . .1

Monkou 78

Sheffield Wednesday. . .1

Bart-Williams 67

Attendance: 16,391

THE DELL rose to Matthew Le Tissier now he is a fully paid- up member of the campaign to bring a smile back to the face of England's international football. Struggling to stay in the Premiership is however, no laughing matter, and Le Tissier was one of three Southampton players booked in the struggle to save a vital point.

It has been 24 years since Sheffield Wednesday left The Dell as losers and there was little to indicate for most of this game that this was to be the Saints' day to alter the shape of club history.

Until Chris Bart-Williams's 67th-minute goal, the game had been a scrappy mess, riddled with fouls and petulance. It had started promisingly with Kevin Pressman saving Craig Maskell's seventh-minute snap shot in athletic fashion, but it was downhill for most of the way after that.

Le Tissier was booked after 18 minutes and was followed by Iain Dowie before half-time and Ken Monkou in the second half.

Francis Benali had given his goalkeeper a shock five minutes into the second half when he headed beyond the advancing Dave Beasant. The keeper had another in the 67th minute when, as a reward for his fine save from Gordon Thomas, Bart-Williams picked up the loose ball and dribbled across the face of the Saints goal before tucking a right-foot shot deep in the corner beyond Beasant's dive.

Wednesday had afforded Le Tissier the accolade of delegating Steve Coleman to look after and foil his every whim. Mostly it worked, but at set- pieces you cannot man-mark Le Tissier. Just before half-time his 25-yard free-kick forced another great save from Pressman. Twelve minutes from time Monkou stole into the space at Pressman's far post to meet Le Tissier's swooping, dipping free-kick from the left touchline and head the equaliser.

The arrival of Alan Ball as manager has injected a dash of aggression in the Southampton tactics to avoid relegation. Le Tissier may not be a born leader but his appointment as club captain is one of the few stratagems open to his masters to force him to realise his potential. In comparison, Glenn Hoddle is a man in perpetual motion, but the touch and vision which make the Channel Islander an exceptional player saved the day and should Southampton stay among the big boys he will almost certainly be the main factor.