Redknapp prays for angelic intervention to rescue Saints

Crystal Palace 2 - Southampton 2
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A family odyssey that began with the East London Schoolboys Under-11s almost half a century ago, took in Seattle, Liverpool, Wembley, too many operating theatres, and much of England's south coast, is likely to come to a close next Sunday. The Redknapps, Harry and Jamie, father and son, have contributed much to the magnetism of English football but an ignominious end beckons. Harry, the Southampton manager, is thus prepared to grasp at any straw in the struggle for survival.

A family odyssey that began with the East London Schoolboys Under-11s almost half a century ago, took in Seattle, Liverpool, Wembley, too many operating theatres, and much of England's south coast, is likely to come to a close next Sunday. The Redknapps, Harry and Jamie, father and son, have contributed much to the magnetism of English football but an ignominious end beckons. Harry, the Southampton manager, is thus prepared to grasp at any straw in the struggle for survival.

This became clear in the bowels of Selhurst Park on Saturday evening. Though it was long after Danny Higginbotham, the most improbable of saviours, had snatched a draw for Saints in this relegation scramble, Redknapp senior's heartbeat had only just returned to normal.

Earlier Redknapp who, like Jamie, will probably retire at the season's end, had said he believed Southampton would stay up "because of that goal. I just get the feeling that it could be meant to be".

Now he dug deep into his pocket and pulled out a three-centimetre high plastic angel. "I believe in fate. I'm as silly as a bunch of lights," he said. "I've been stood there all day with this in my pocket. Sandra, my missus, gave me it. She tells me: 'Harry, this will help you', so I've had that in my hand. That's how stupid it is and you wonder what you're doing.

"But I've got to keep it now," he continued. "With a minute to go it was about to go flying on to the pitch. I was thinking 'you can stick your angel' but suddenly it was 'well done' and I put it back in my pocket. It's crackers really. But anything helps."

Last week was the same. With Saints hanging on against Norwich, Redknapp reached for a drink of water, then remembered he had done the same before conceding late goals against Middlesbrough and Everton. He remained thirsty, and Saints held on.

Perhaps Redknapp may as well trust luck as his team's destiny, like Crystal Palace's, is no longer in their hands. Even if Saints defeat Manchester United on Sunday their 27-year sojourn in the top-flight will be over if Norwich win at Fulham, or Palace win by two more goals at Charlton.

Both these teams' task will be made more difficult by the suspensions incurred by Peter Crouch and Gonzalo Sorondo after they were dismissed when the tension boiled over just before the hour. Crouch, treated like a stepladder by Palace defenders all afternoon, finally lost his rag and kicked, then straight-armed Sorondo. The Uruguayan went for punching Graeme Le Saux after the scuffle became a mêlée.

Crouch had previously been ice-cool converting a delayed penalty in a game that illustrated why these teams are in the mire. Fitz Hall's volleyed opening strike was superbly executed but the chance only arose because Higginbotham and Claus Lundekvam had jumped into each other attempting to clear Michael Hughes' deft free-kick.

Seven seconds after the restart Tony Popovic confirmed the impression he was a liability by handling as Henri Camara controlled Olivier Bernard's long ball forward. Crouch scored nervelessly.

After the dismissals, Nicola Ventola, perhaps marginally offside, restored Palace's lead. His task was simplified when Antii Niemi and his back four stood and watched Mikele Leigertwood's hopeful ball forward. Then, deep into injury-time, Kevin Phillips was given unaccountable space on the left and the unmarked Higginbotham swept in the cross. It goes to the wire. "Maybe I'll give them all a plastic angel next week, and put them down their shorts," concluded Redknapp.

Goals: Hall (34) 1-0; Crouch pen (37) 1-1; Ventola (72) 2-1; Higginbotham (90) 2-2.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Hall, Popovic (Ventola, 64), Sorondo, Granville; Routledge, Riihilahti (Watson, 64), Hughes, Leigertwood, Soares; Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Freedman, Lakis.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Telfer, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Bernard; Oakley (Delap, 76), Redknapp (McCann, 79), Quashie, Le Saux (Phillips, 63); Camara, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Davenport.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Crystal Palace Johnson, Hall, Ventola; Southampton Phillips.

Sent off: Crystal Palace Sorondo (59); Southampton Crouch (58).

Man of the match: Hughes.

Attendance: 26,066.

Comments