Lightning Le Tissier

Southampton 2 Maddison 88, Le Tissier 89 Newcastle Unite d 2 Ferdinand 14, Clark 82 Attendance: 15,251
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The Independent Online
IF Kenny Dalglish had forgotten just what mental and emotional agonies can attend upon life at football's sharp end, then he was reminded of them yesterday. He watched helplessly as Newcastle, under his command for the first time, contrived to throw away what looked a certain victory by letting in two goals in the last three minutes.

It was an amazing climax to a tense but untidy match that Newcastle had never been wholly in control of in spite of the cushion of safety they appeared to have thanks to goals from Les Ferdinand and Lee Clark. First Neil Maddison capitalised on Shaka Hislop's failure to hold on to a cross, before Matthew Le Tissier brought his sense of occasion to bear by thundering in an equaliser from 20 yards. Thus a two-goal advantage had been squandered in both Newcastle's Premiership matches since the departure of Kevin Keegan.

In the old days a turn of events like this would have brought on one of Dalglish's famed bouts of near-silent moroseness. But he remained surprisingly mellow afterwards, as he had been in the days leading up to the match, suggesting that his break from football has indeed done wonders for his general outlook on life.

"To Southampton's credit they never laid down," he said. Of his own team he added: "With that attitude and commitment there are not going to be too many disappointing Saturdays for us. They did everything that was asked of them. You never settle for a point beforehand, but that's what we got and it was the least we deserved." None the less, the result extended Newcastle's run of win-less away trips that began in October, and with Liverpool and Manchester United both picking up three points, vital ground has been lost.

Much interest centred on Dalglish's selection, but injuries to David Ginola and Steve Watson meant he only really had one tough decision to make - the omission of Robert Lee in favour of a resurgent Clark. Tactically, they were more cautious than in the Keegan era and some of Newcastle's measured passing bore the stamp of Dalglish's guidance.

A moment of paralysis in the Southampton defence helped to give Newcastle the lead after 14 minutes. Alan Shearer had a shot blocked on the edge of the area, but instead of clearing the danger Richard Dryden played the ball straight to Ferdinand who rammed it in from close range.

A flurry of near-misses followed at the Newcastle end almost immediately. Shearer sent a suicidal header back across his own goal-line from Le Tissier's cross, but the ball was scrambled away from Egil Ostenstad; a Matthew Oakley shot looked goal-bound before Darren Peacock deflected it over the bar; and Hislop produced an outstanding save as Jim Magilton connected beautifully with a rising drive from 20 yards. The referee did not see it that way, and awarded a goal-kick.

Hislop's opposite number, Mark Taylor, was having problems of his own on his first home appearance since joining Southampton from Third Division Barnet, but retained an air of composure even as Ferdinand, picking up a pass from Shearer, bore down on his goal in the 25th minute. With Ken Monkou getting far enough back to put Ferdinand fractionally off his stroke, the shot slid inches wide of the post.

Although Le Tissier remained a somewhat peripheral figure, Southampton were full of ideas and backed them up with a physical forcefulness that at times their opponents could not cope with. Newcastle should still have gone into the break two goals ahead after Maddison's hesitant back-pass put Shearer in an even more clear-cut one-on-one situation than Ferdinand had enjoyed. Taylor did superbly, though, standing up to beat out a mighty shot that came straight at him.

With virtually Newcastle's only attack of the second half, Clark beat Taylor from a narrow angle eight minutes from the end. Then came Hislop's clanger and Le Tissier's wondrous strike to enable manager Graeme Souness to look his old Anfield team-mate in the eye.

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