Richards strikes to give Saints share of spoils

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The Independent Online

Many more late shows like this and Southampton will be safe early in the season. Having secured three points last weekend with a goal in the 90th minute, the Saints snatched one with an 88th-minute equaliser that left enough life in the dying stages for a glaring miss of a glorious chance by Jo Tessem.

Many more late shows like this and Southampton will be safe early in the season. Having secured three points last weekend with a goal in the 90th minute, the Saints snatched one with an 88th-minute equaliser that left enough life in the dying stages for a glaring miss of a glorious chance by Jo Tessem.

In the second minute of injury time James Beattie - who had opened the scoring with an extraordinary goal - found Tessem unmarked in the centre of the area. He steadied himself, waited for the ball to drop, picked his spot. And then he sunk to his knees hoping for the penalty spot to open up and swallow him as the ball slammed into the hoardings.

"It was an interesting game and there are no words to express the chance we had at the end," his manager, Glenn Hoddle, said. "But if we had been 2-1 down, he would have felt even worse."

But Tessem was not the only guilty party. In the 69th minute Marian Pahars scurried on to Beattie's cross-field punt and set up Chris Marsden, whose touch in front of Thomas Sorensen was as wayward as Tessem's.

Beattie's involvement in the game had begun in the 11th minute with the most skilful of flukes. From at least 35 yards he returned a defensive header with a classic knee-over-the-ball half-volley. It caught Sorensen, who hopes to make his first Danish start this week, slightly off his line and sailed into the net off his fingertips. The brilliance even stunned Beattie.

Sunderland's equaliser 10 minutes later was equally unbelievable, for when Don Hutchison precisely crossed low, Claus Lundekvam inexplicably allowed it to reach Niall Quinn on the back post, who did not need asking to gleefully tap it home.

Paul Jones, blameless for the goal due to the precision of the cross, immediately saved Kevin Phillips' header, superbly at that, but in the next move parried the striker's shot on to a plate for the waiting Hutchison. However, from a mere yard out, the Scot made a real meal of it and forked it horribly on to the post.

"The first half was the best we've played all season and we should have been two or three up," the Sunderland manager, Peter Reid, said. "Then we switched off and when it got to the final whistle I was delighted with a point."

Sunderland actually opened the second half with their best move of the game down the right. It culminated in Kevin Kilbane's immaculate dummy which left the ball at Phillips' feet, but the striker illustrated how his sureness of foot has deserted him recently by scuffing it wide.

With Pahars prowling with increasing effectiveness, Southampton looked the most likely to score a winner until the 80th minute, when Hutchison's deft turn on the edge of the area decked Jason Dodd. Hutchison's low shot was then deflected to defeat Jones.

It seemed to seal the points until the late show starred Dean Richards' powerful header with two minutes remaining.

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