Beck makes his point to stifle Saints at the last

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The Independent Football

MORE THAN Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea and just as much as Danny Wilson at Sheffield Wednesday, the Southampton manager, Dave Jones, badly needed a victory from his team this elongated Premiership weekend. They were only seconds from securing it last night when Mikkael Beck, a second- half substitute, spared Derby a third successive defeat.

MORE THAN Gianluca Vialli at Chelsea and just as much as Danny Wilson at Sheffield Wednesday, the Southampton manager, Dave Jones, badly needed a victory from his team this elongated Premiership weekend. They were only seconds from securing it last night when Mikkael Beck, a second- half substitute, spared Derby a third successive defeat.

For Southampton it was a savage denouement; when Stuart Ripley put power and accuracy behind a left-foot volley mid-way through the second period there seemed no way back for a visiting side who had taken the lead courtesy of the Saints' generosity, only to follow suit with their own defensive rashness which had their manager, Jim Smith, squirming on the touch-line.

Still it came part-right for the Bald Eagle at the end - having suggested to Beck that maybe a move away from Pride Park would be in the Dane's best interests, the Derby boss was delighted to see him turn in a deep cross from Vass Borbokis, another substitute, in the fifth minute of time added on.

"I feel sorry for Mikkael because he's had a mare of a time with us in front of goal, yet he always works hard," Smith said. "I suggested it might do him good to get away on loan somewhere but now I believe he can start scoring a few for us."

Southampton have not had any problem in that department of late and here they managed to score three times for the second game in succession. It should have been enough for the win that would have lifted some of the dark clouds shadowing The Dell because of the manager's off-the-field predicament - he has protested his innocence after being charged with nine offences of ill-treating children, charges that date back to his time as a social worker on Merseyside.

But to the home side's dismay they were pegged back by the force of Derby's response which might have yielded an equaliser before Beck's late, late intervention.

"We don't know when to be ugly," moaned Jones. "In the last few minutes we are till trying to play it crisp and sharp when we should be knocking the ball deep into corners."

The Southampton manager at least received a supportive hand from the home supporters.

He included Matt Le Tissier from the start for the first time in eight games, while Scott Hiley came in for the injured Claus Lundekvam.

The manager felt they missed Lundekvam's aerial strength and he must also have wondered about Hiley's selection when the defender shared in Paul Jones' confusion as they attempted to deal with Rory Delap's wayward header. Together they conspired to present the midfielder with a simple tap in and Derby were ahead.

For no more than a minute later, however, Marian Pahars rifled from 30 yards a vicious shot that flew into the top corner. A neat bout of passing gave Le Tissier the chance to send Matt Oakley streaking through for a clever finish between Russell Hoult and his near post.

Ripley seemed to have sewn things up but when Jacob Laursen scored direct from a free-kick with 16 minutes remaining it produced a lifeline that Derby, just, were able to reel in.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Dodd, Richards, Benali; Ripley, Hughes, Oakley, Kachloul (Boa Morte, 90); Pahars, Le Tissier (Beattie, 79). Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Colleter, Soltvedt.

Derby County (5-3-2): Hoult; Laursen (Borbokis, 83), Prior, Carbonari (Harper, 57), Schnoor, Dorigo; Delap, Powell, Johnson; Sturridge, Fuertes (Beck, 53). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Murray.

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

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