Three goals were not enough to secure three points for Southampton at St Mary's last night. And although there was excitement aplenty for the home fans, their side's failure to provide the first victory under the managership of Harry Redknapp - who had called this a game his team "had to win" - left a feeling of wintry chill. The Saints are still adrift.
With only two points gained out of a possible 15 under Redcknapp's charge before Fulham's visit, he knew that urgent measures needed to be taken. Accordingly, half the team that had lost 2-1 at Manchester City were changed. Among the newcomers were two debutants, - the young central defender Callum Davenport, and a player well known to the manager - his son Jamie, who has a deal that lasts until the end of the season.
Fulham's Senegalese midfielder, Papa Bouba Diop, managed to dominate the opening proceedings on his own, sending a savage 35-yard drive just over the angle of post and bar after seven minutes, and missing his own goal by a similar margin nine minutes later after miscueing a clearance.
Diop's aim improved after 19 minutes, when he headed Fulham into the lead from Mark Pembridge's free-kick home at the far post.
But Southampton's response was immediate, as Fabrice Fernandes accelerated down the right wing and produced a cross which was turned in at the far post by Kevin Phillips, despite the fact that the home forward was giving a good impression of a man offside.
Redknapp was operating at his customary pace - moderate - but just before the half hour he set in motion the move which put the home side ahead, freeing Peter Crouch on the left wing. The lanky forward brought Phillips into play, and drifted towards goal, apparently looking for a return pass. But Phillips's old predatory instinct, whetted by his opener, saw him cut suddenly inside Zat Knight and ram the ball home beyond Van der Sar's reach.
The sense of rising excitement among the majority of the 27,343 crowd was quelled two minutes from half-time, however, as Steed Malbranque bounced in a shot over the heads of Southampton's goalline defenders after Luis Boa Morte's angled shot had been beaten away by Antti Niemi.
The mood dipped further four minutes into the second half when Tomasz Radzinski converted a long, diagonal pass from Pembridge unchallenged.
But the evening tipped again after 70 minutes as the hapless Liam Rosenior slammed an Anders Svensson cross past his own keeper under pressure from Crouch.
Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Telfer, Ludekvam, Davenport (Jakobsson, 84), Higginbotham; Fernandes (McCann, 43min), Delap, Redknapp, Svensson; Crouch, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Cranie, Ormerod.
Fulham: (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Rosenior, Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra; Malbranque, Bouba Diop, Pembridge, Boa Morte; Cole, Radzinski (John, 60). Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), McBride, Clark, Fontaine.
Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire)Reuse content