Too soon for Beattie and England, warns Strachan

Southampton 2 Birmingham City

Lindsay Harrison
Sunday 08 December 2002 01:00

The Southampton manager Gordon Strachan last night resisted calls for his striker James Beattie to receive an England call-up after his goals had secured a deserved 2-0 win over Birmingham City.

Beattie gave Southampton a 58th-minute lead from the penalty spot after Birmingham defender Darren Purse had handled in the area before sealing the victory eight minutes from time with a clinical finish from close range.

The goals mean Beattie has now scored 11 goals in his last eight games to make him the leading English scorer in the Premiership this season. But Strachan believes it will be to the player's disadvantage if he is included in England coach Sven Goran Eriksson's next squad.

Strachan said: "I don't think James Beattie is good enough to play for England yet. If you get there too early and are not ready then it can be to your disadvantage and he wants to go in when he is really ready. He has got a great level of fitness and I thought his performance against Birmingham was his best all-round game for us this season – but he needs time."

Birmingham badly missed the combative qualities of the suspended Robbie Savage in midfield and rarely posed a problem for Paul Jones, deputising in the Southampton goal for the injured Antti Niemi.

The visitors struggled in attack and were overwhelmed in midfield where the Republic of Ireland international midfield player Rory Delap was outstanding. Birmingham can thank goalkeeper Nico Vaesen for keeping them in the match until the 58th minute.

In the sixth minute Vaesen somehow managed to block a goal-bound shot from Anders Svensson with his legs and just before half-time was out quickly to do the same when Brett Ormerod bore down on goal. In addition Damien Johnson, standing in for Savage, headed off the line from Michael Svensson.

Southampton took the lead in the 58th minute when Purse stuck out an arm to block a centre from Wayne Bridge on the left when there was no opposition player near him. Beattie stepped up to convert the spot-kick.

The Blues forced a series of corners in a desperate search for an equaliser and sent on Darren Carter in place of Johnson in the 70th minute. But in the 82nd minute substitute Jo Tessem broke down the right and his low centre was touched on by Ormerod for an unmarked Beattie to score a simple second from 10 yards.

Birmingham had Johnson and Morrison booked for dissent after strong appeals for a penalty for handball had been rejected by referee Jeff Winter and Oliver Tebily shot narrowly wide as Southampton's defence creaked for the first time.

Delap marred an otherwise impeccable display with a first-half booking but Southampton did not miss the influential Chris Marsden who was obliged to sit out the game against his old club through a one-match suspension.

Southampton 2 Birmingham City 0
Beattie pen 60, 83

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 31,132

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