Southampton 1 Burnley 1: Saints cast adrift in wake of Redknapp's defection

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The Independent Online

Somewhere in amongst the bitterness and shock that surrounded the St Mary's stadium following Harry Redknapp's departure on Friday night, there was a football match trying to get out.

There was also some black humour to be found. Presumably the person in charge of arranging the pre-match entertainment was not a fan of Redknapp's. What else can be read into their replaying the "highlights" of his last home game in charge, the 3-4 collapse against Leeds United a fortnight ago? Having led 3-0, it was not exactly a great note for the Portsmouth-bound Redknapp to leave on.

But with Dave Bassett, Redknapp's assistant and defensive coach, in the dug-out alongside Dennis Wise, now just a player at Southampton after his time as player-manager at Millwall, there was certainly experience to fall back on.

Bassett, whose short-term contract runs out at the end of this month, then said he would like to apply for the vacant manager's job, saying, apropos Sir Clive Woodward: "I could work with anyone. I could work with the Devil." Steve Cotterill, Burnley's manager, has not had to work with the Devil, but has had a difficult time rebuilding his side. But having weathered Saints' best efforts, which only resulted in a penalty that Cotterill thought was soft, he reorganised his men, including moving Graham Branch from centre-half to left winger, and deserved his point.

After Micah Hyde's foul on Rory Delap, Danny Higginbotham sent his penalty kick straight down the middle, Southampton were not able to build on that, which, never mind the managerial shenanigans, has been the tale of their season.

There was a gnawing inevitability about the visitors' equaliser, even though they deployed Ade Akinbiyi up front on his own. The former Crystal Palace striker is currently the Championship's leading scorer, so when Branch delivered his cross to the far post, he confirmed his good form by heading past Antti Niemi from six yards.

With Southampton having drawn 13 of their games this season, they sit in mid-table. As the chairman, Rupert Lowe, looks to recruit someone to replace Redknapp, he can at least try and lure the candidate by telling him the team are only four points off a play-off place.

Burnley, after their brushes with relegation in the last couple of seasons, are closer than that. They lie seventh and are only out of the top six on goal difference, behind their neighbours Preston. They also look a stable outfit - someone should tell Southampton the benefits of that.

Goals: Higginbotham pen (33) 1-0; Akinbiyi (66) 1-1.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Delap, Kenton, Powell, Higginbotham; Belmadi (N McCann, 74), Oakley, Prutton, Kosowski; Ormerod (Fuller, 67), Walcott (Jones, 67). Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Cranie.

Burnley (4-5-1): Jensen; Lowe, Sinclair, Branch, Harley; Elliott, Spicer (Noel-Williams, 61), Hyde, J O'Connor, G O'Connor; Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: Karbassiyoon, C McCann, Courtney, Grant (gk).

Referee: B Curson (Leicestershire).

Booked: Southampton Walcott; Burnley G O'Connor.

Man of the Match: Branch.

Attendance: 21,592.