Quashie brings the old pomp back to St Mary's

Southampton 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

A sniff of survival almost burned the nostrils with its allure on the south coast yesterday as Southampton collected three points that were quite agonising in their delivery.

A sniff of survival almost burned the nostrils with its allure on the south coast yesterday as Southampton collected three points that were quite agonising in their delivery.

Belief now runs strongly through the third-bottom club, although even Harry Redknapp confessed that not so long ago he had all but given up hope. And if Harry doesn't believe, nobody believes. "To be honest five weeks ago I thought no chance, not a prayer," said the Southampton manager. "But then the transfer window came and we brought in four or five new players and they have made all the difference."

One of these happened to be Nigel Quashie, who Redknapp cheekily nabbed from some club called Portsmouth and who popped up with a second-half header here that took Southampton to within two points of safety. But it was the performance of Paul Smith, a goalkeeper who Redknapp knew nothing about when he arrived, that most caught the eye as he denied Spurs in at least five one-on-ones. "When Antti Niemi got injured I had a boy who had never played in the first team and to tell you the truth I feared the worst," Redknapp admitted. "Strewth, he made some saves today."

Indeed he did, as Jermain Defoe for one will testify. So, too, will the Southampton faithful who found the need to hail a few St Mary's as Spurs did everything but equalise in a frantic finish. It was as far removed as you could get from a first half when the home side fairly towered over their slow-stirring visitors. True, there was the first minute when Mido was only scuppered by Smith's flailing leg, but apart from that piece of opportunism, and Defoe's blast over the bar, there was little for the Spurs cockerel to crow about.

In contrast, the Southampton striking partnership of Peter Crouch and Henri Camara - long of leg, not short of pace - caused all manner of problems to a clearly rattled Spurs back four. Camara might have snatched the lead in the seventh minute when he stole through on the right before giving his shot too much air and in the 33rd minute only the quick thinking and even hastier reflexes of the England goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, were able to divert the Senegalese international's chips. Even he could get nowhere near Crouch's effort just before the break after Camara's cute pass across the box, but the ball tantalisingly bobbled past beyond the far post.

No matter, Spurs were hanging on and within six minutes of the restart their grip was loosening sufficiently for Southampton to grab what was by now rightfully theirs. With his very first touches, Swedish substitute Mikael Nilsson ran and fired in a wicked cross for Quashie to convert with a bullet of a header from 18 yards. Game over? Not when you are in a dogfight, Defoe is on the pitch and there are more than 30 minutes remaining.

Fortunately for Saints, Smith was more than equal to everything Spurs had to throw at him - and there was plenty. The first act of heroism came moments after the goal when he dived left to withstand Defoe's best intentions, and the last with three minutes remaining when he performed a similar feat with a Freddie Kanouté piledriver.

At the other end, as if not to be out-done, Robinson pulled off the save of this or any other season in which Gordon Banks has not appeared, when he somehow turned away Crouch's header from four yards. With a 6ft 7in Lurch lookalike steaming in on you, it is hard enough to protect yourself never mind your goal. Alas, his moment of sheer genius was to be in vain for everything but the memory.

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