When faced with the opportunity to achieve your first Premiership victory in 15 matches, the temptation to cling on to a single-goal lead, even if it means playing for time for an hour, has to be irresistible. It certainly was for Leicester, but, after conceding a late penalty, their manager, Dave Bassett, admitted that time was up for them in the top division.
Much of Leicester's determined drive, which used to be the benchmark for clubs with similar limitations in skill and finance, seemed to have returned on Saturday, though all too late."I don't think morale has ever been the problem," Bassett said, "but we never seem to get that bit of luck that can turn matches in your favour." Sadly, misleading.
Gordon Strachan was as baffled as anyone when, with three minutes remaining, the referee Mike Dean was one of the few people in St Mary's Stadium to be sure why he gave the equalising penalty. He rushed towards the incident tugging at his shirt collar. Neither Strachan, the home manager, nor Bassett knew what had happened and heard several versions from the players and the referee.
Marian Pahars, always the most ingenious of players in an exciting but generally unskilled game, eagerly pumped in the penalty. Earlier he had shown his ability when Anders Svensson placed a centre a shade awkwardly for him. Somehow he got into a heading position and brought Southampton back into a game that Leicester had so unexpectedly gripped with two goals from Brian Deane.
Admittedly, Southampton were put at an early disadvantage when Claus Lundekvam and Deane bumped heads. Lundekvam was still dazed and out of position when Deane found space to head Leicester into the lead. Lundekvam had to abandon the game, which cost the defence some confidence. That was probably why goalkeeper Paul Jones was forced to come out of the penalty area to attempt a headed clearance which only went to Muzzy Izzet, who lobbed the ball back. It hit bar and post before Deane dispatched it. For an hour they stoutly defended their optimism, but in reality the penalty brought about the just result.
Goals: Deane (21) 0-1; Deane (25) 0-2; Pahars (29) 1-2; Pahars (pen 87) 2-2.
Southampton (4-4-2): Jones 5; Telfer 6, Lundekvam 5 (El Khalej 6, 23), Williams 6, Bridge 7; Pahars 8, Svensson 6 (Fernandes 6, 63), Oakley 7, Marsden 6; Davies 6 (Beattie 7, 63), Ormerod 7. Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Tessem.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Walker 6; Marshall 6, Elliott 7, Laursen 6, Delaney 6; Piper 6, Izzett 7, Savage 7, Oakes 6; Deane 8 (Heath, 76), Dickov 7 (Reeves, 81). Substitutes not used: Andrews (gk), Ashton, Wright.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral) 7.
Bookings: Leicester: Dickov, Elliott, Oakes, Reeves.
Man of the match: Deane.
Attendance: 30,012.Reuse content