Camara edges Saints ahead in error-strewn relegation fight

Southampton 4 - Norwich City 3
Click to follow

The main reason why Southampton persuaded Harry Redknapp to make the switch along the south coast from Portsmouth was that he had been through the relegation wringer before. He began with a 5-1 loss at Tottenham in December that signified the magnitude of his task. Now it is going to the wire and the Saints are clinging to the belief that they can extend their 24 years in the top flight.

"If we'd lost today I'd be standing here telling you that's all over for us," Redknapp said after Saturday's roller-coaster 4-3 defeat of Norwich had lifted South-ampton out of the relegation places and sent Norwich back to the bottom.

Beaten 4-1 by Portsmouth at Fratton Park last week Southampton were equally woeful in defence here but this time successfully met the challenge with gung-ho football that Norwich were eager to match. Depending on your disposition it was either thrilling in its intensity or pure slapstick.

During the interval I fell into conversation with Stuart Williams the former Southampton, West Bromwich and Wales full-back who played in the 1958 World Cup finals. "I've never seen such bad defending," he said. "No wonder they are both in serious trouble. There's no covering, no sense of anticipation. Both teams are all over the place."

Williams forecast that things would tighten up and they did, Norwich settling down to play a more measured game but the excitement never dropped as chances came at both ends.

From the opening minute we could see the defensive deficiencies. In direct opposition, Darren Huckerby on Norwich's left and Matthew Oakley on Southampton's right never got close enough to each other to exchange a handshake. Soon the Canaries were ahead, David Bentley squeezing in a McKenzie centre. On seven minutes Southampton were level when Nigel Quashie broke into a huge gap in front of Norwich's back line and fed Oakley, who drove a low shot past Robert Green.

Forgiven for last week's display at Portsmouth, Southampton had the backing of a passionate home crowd as Norwich could have had two more goals before their defence was again caught napping. After 20 minutes, Kevin Phillips released Oakley, whose cross was met with a side-footed volley from 12 yards by Peter Crouch.

Crouch was always a handful, but Norwich were also causing problems, particularly on the left, where Huckerby was given room. With half an hour played, Huckerby's low cross was deflected into his own net by Danny Higginbotham.

It swayed one way, then the other. Crouch was the focal point for Southampton and instrumental in setting up Graeme Le Saux for a volley that restored their lead in the 39th minute. In first-half stoppage time, Green lofted a long ball that was helped on by Ashton for McKenzie to equalise.

With Ashton working selflessly, Norwich began to get the ball down, establishing a measure of control that might have brought its reward but for two stunning saves by Antti Niemi.

Finally, with two minutes left, the substitute Henri Camara fired the winner past Green.

When Redknapp was told that Worthington thought it had been an enjoyable game he was flabbergasted. "Anyone who enjoys going through that must be - what's the word? - yeah that's it, masochist."

Goals: Bentley (3) 0-1; Oakley (7) 1-1; Crouch (20) 2-1; Higginbotham (og 31) 2-2; Le Saux (39) 3-2; McKenzie (45) 3-3; Camara (88) 4-3.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Delap (Telfer, h-t), Jakobsson (Lundekvam, h-t), Higginbotham, Bernard; Oakley, Redknapp, Quashie, Le Saux (Camara, 73); Phillips, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Smith, Ormerod.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Helveg, Fleming, Shackell, Drury; Bentley, Francis, Safri, Huckerby (Charlton, 68); Ashton (Svensson, 81), McKenzie. Substitutes not used: Jonson, Holt, Ward.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Man of the match: Crouch.

Attendance: 31,944.

Comments