D'Urso error turns rollercoaster Sturrock's way

Southampton 3 - Blackburn Rovers 2
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The Independent Football

It was as if fate had decided to be kind to beleaguered Southampton manager Paul Sturrock. After rumours that he would be sacked if Saints lost this match, referee Andy D'Urso's last minute brainstorm in awarding the home side a penalty, was just what the doctor ordered.

It was as if fate had decided to be kind to beleaguered Southampton manager Paul Sturrock. After rumours that he would be sacked if Saints lost this match, referee Andy D'Urso's last minute brainstorm in awarding the home side a penalty, was just what the doctor ordered.

Southampton took the lead through Kevin Phillips but fell behind after the half-time introduction of Paul Dickov and Lucas Neill transformed Blackburn.

Dickov danced all over the defence, setting up Barry Ferguson for the equaliser and scoring the second himself, and Sturrock must have feared the worst as the chairman, Rupert Lowe, sat upon his judgement in the stand.

But James Beattie, the subject of much speculation that he is unhappy at St Mary's under Sturrock, helped to set up a spectacular equaliser for Anders Svensson.

Enter Mr D'Urso: with 90 minutes on the clock, Southampton thumped the ball forward and Craig Short jumped routinely with Beattie. But D'Urso pointed to the spot, and Beattie smashed in the penalty.

The decision capped a shaky afternoon for D'Urso, who just a minute earlier should have dismissed Ferguson, after having showed him a second yellow card, having initially booked him in the 80th minute.

He might also have awarded Blackburn a penalty when Danny Higginbotham brought Dickov down, and later sent off Dickov for shoving Beattie in the face. "I can't talk about referees any more,'' said the Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness.

And Sturrock was more interested in talking about an exciting match and the character his players had shown, particularly Beattie, who he had named as captain. "Beattie led by example,'' he said.

Lowe, meanwhile, stopped short of bestowing a vote of confidence upon Sturrock but said: "All managers are judged by results. Paul Sturrock remains the manager here until the board decides otherwise."

And in an angry swipe at Aston Villa manager David O'Leary, who has made no secret of his desire to sign Beattie, Lowe added: "People tend to misjudge us. It's not as easy as it used to be to take our players. People who have tried to buy Beattie have been quoted in the media, which I think is disgraceful.''

Goals: 1-0 Phillips (32), 1-1 Ferguson (49), 1-2 Dickov (68), 2-2 Svensson (74), 3-2 Beattie (pen 90).

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Telfer, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Le Saux; Fernandes, Prutton, Delap, Svensson; Phillips, Beattie. Substitutes not used: Crouch, Crainie, Best, Van Damme, Smith (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Short, Johansson, Gray (Gresko, 89); Flitcroft (Neill, 45), Ferguson, Tugay, Matteo; Stead, Yorke (Dickov, 45). Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), De Pedro.

Referee: A D'Urso.

Bookings: Blackburn: Dickov 74, Ferguson 80, 90, Johansson 82.

Man of the Match: Fernandes.

Attendance: 27492.

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