Le Tissier frustrated

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Football

STEPHEN BRENKLEY

Southampton 0 West Ham United 0

Two of the Premiership's poorer sides provided entertainment which perfectly lived down to their reputations last night. Not even the presence of Matthew Le Tissier, making his 300th League appearance, could raise the standard of a game which, though the season is barely in its third month, bore all the hallmarks of a turgid relegation struggle.

Both sides settled early into the earnest mediocrity which is their lot, no doubt born of having won only once each this season. West Ham were marginally the more assured; they kept possession more comfortably but frequently passed nowhere in particular, and their finishing was rarely crisp.

The second half was better than the first but probably only because the match could simply get no worse. Le Tissier, having once more been overlooked by England, and on the day his wife gave birth to a daughter too, appeared to have his mind understandably on other matters.

He demonstrated just once his flair for outrageous improvisation when, in the ninth minute, he contrived a shot from some 35 yards. It missed its distant target, but not by much, and Le Tissier faded like his colleagues into anonymity.

Don Hutchison might have done better with a shot from 12 yards when put clear, and at least Jason Dodds forced a genuine save from Ludek Miklosko. Midfield space was never in abundant supply and while West Ham fashioned more of it through the efforts of Hutchison and John Moncur they were hardly charging towards goal.

Just once, in the 74th minute, did they seem to have a genuine opportunity to take the lead. From a free-kick, first Hutchison had a flick, then Iain Dowie drilled in a shot, only to have it cleared from the line, and finally Ian Bishop drove his shot wide.

Southampton were utterly bereft of ideas and inspiration, and if they were waiting for Le Tissier to fashion some minor miracle they were to be disappointed. He will, of course, return to form soon, although his manager, Dave Merrington, is concerned enough to have said that they are determined to help him and support him in his present trough. Merrington confirmed that his star was wounded deeply by being omitted from the England squad, even though he did not show it.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Dodd, Hall, Monkou, Benali; Magilton, Maddison, Widdrington, Charlton (Bennett, 65); Shipperley, Le Tissier. Substitutes not used: Watson, Grobbelaar (gk).

West Ham United (4-5-1): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Martin, Rowland; Slater, Hutchison, Bishop, Moncur, Lazaridis (Cottee, 70); Dowie. Substitutes not used: Rieper, Sealey (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

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