As farewell matches go, it was not ideal, but if it was indeed goodbye to Southampton for Theo Walcott, the 16-year-old prodigy will probably have plenty more opportunities to celebrate in the future.
"I don't know what will happen tomorrow," joked the Saints manager, George Burley. "I might not be here myself, who knows? I won't guarantee anything, but as far as I'm aware, nothing has changed."
Walcott, apparently, may not have been planning to head back to the South Coast after a frustrating afternoon as Richard Langley sealed the points for Queen's Park Rangers with the only goal of the game from a first-half penalty, as he is expected to sign for Arsenal by the end of tomorrow. The teenager's misery was increased by Nigel Quashie missing a penalty for the Saints.
His display on the left wing may not be his last in the Saints' red-and-white stripes, because if his move to Highbury does go through (although Arsène Wenger, Arsenal's manager, is still being coy about the exact timing of the agreement), he may return to St Mary's for the rest of the season on loan.
Rangers have played South-ampton twice now this season, so their right-back, Marcus Bignot, can sleep easier in his bed knowing he will not have to face the high-speed trickster until at least next season. He needed to be alert twice right from the off yesterday, timing his tackle perfectly as Walcott tried to go past him. Walcott then floated the ensuing corner on to the head of Darren Powell and Bignot cleared the ball off the line.
Rangers found their rhythm and went ahead after 21 minutes when Lee Cook's long shot was parried by Paul Smith in Saints' goal and, as the ball looped up, Gareth Ainsworth was brought down by Danny Higginbotham. Langley shut out the distraction of Saints' protests and sent Smith the wrong way.
After the break Quashie thumped a drive too high before Walcott, with 14 minutes left, sped down the right and crossed. Belmadi touched the ball off to Quashie, who fell under pressure from Ainsworth and Steve Lomas. He picked himself up to take the penalty but his shot came back off the post and Rangers cleared the rebound.
Southampton could get Walcott on the rebound, at least temporarily, if his move goes ahead.Reuse content