Built on Saints
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of our much-loved home, Graham Hiley tells the tale of the stadium’s most memorable Southampton victories.
Saints 2-1 Bournemouth
28th April 2018
“There’s only one south coast derby!”
It’s the chant that rings round St Mary’s every time Bournemouth come to town – and the taunt that winds up their fans more than any other.
No matter how much they – or the media – try to big it up, there is never the same intensity or hostility as there is when Southampton take on They Who Shall Not Be Named.
This fixture is founded more on friendship than fear. Saints even played a major part in keeping their neighbours alive with a fundraising match often conveniently forgotten in an attempt to manufacture some animosity.
So, Cherries fans were loving the build-up to this clash knowing they had a chance to effectively relegate their “rivals” who were four points adrift of safety with just four games remaining.
Eddie Howe’s team were nine points clear of the drop zone and would be mathematically safe if they secured their first ever victory at the home of their closest neighbours, their 13 previous visits bringing eight defeats and just five draws.
Having replaced Mauricio Pellegrino in mid-March, Mark Hughes had seen his Saints side take just one point from his first four matches in charge, making this a must-win.
It meant for once there was a real edge to this meeting, with Cherries fans prematurely bragging “the south coast is ours” while the intensity from the home stands reflected the crucial importance of what was now make or break.
That passion transmitted itself to both teams. Bournemouth had a real go, desperate to try and show some seniority while the home side fought tooth and nail for survival, inspired by Dušan Tadić who had the game of his life.
It was the Serb who got the opening goal on 25 minutes as Saints put together a lethal counter-attack as the visitors committed too many men forward in response to their fans urging them to go for the jugular.
As Maya Yoshida headed clear Ryan Fraser’s hopeful cross, Nathan Redmond flicked the ball over Dan Gosling and set up a 3v1 break. Mario Lemina timed the pass perfectly to play in Tadić one on one, and he slotted left-footed past Asmir Begović.
It was vital to hold out to half time and Alex McCarthy blocked superbly with his feet from Nathan Aké’s clever spin and shot from close range on 43 minutes.
But deep into stoppage time the Cherries were given a corner despite the fact Josh King got the final touch as he was tracked by Lemina. It was typical of Saints’ luck – but no excuse for switching off as Fraser’s right-wing ball was flicked on by Steve Cook for the unmarked King to volley in at the far post for Bournemouth’s first league goal in Southampton since February 1960.
As he marched down the tunnel, the thunderous look from Hughes left nobody in any doubt what he thought of the defending with so much at stake.
McCarthy made a fine full-length save to his left to keep out a 25-yard shot from Lewis Cook before the home side regained the lead on 54 minutes.
Steve Cook miscontrolled just outside the centre circle and Tadić pounced to pinch the ball. He sprinted forward and, as the defence retreated, he burst into the box and fired home left-footed to become only the third Serbian to reach 20 Premier League goals in his career.
Tadić seemed to have made it his personal mission to drag Saints towards survival. Apart from his supremely-taken double and his incisive passing, the imperious midfielder drove the side forward with an intensity and passion which fully captured the mood and the importance of the occasion.
He set up Ryan Bertrand, whose shot was saved by Begović, and then Charlie Austin, who found the side-netting while Shane Long was also denied by the keeper.
The visitors piled on the pressure late on with McCarthy having to pull off two brilliant saves from deflected shots by Fraser. Former Saint Andrew Surman fired wide, his shot lacking a little conviction against the club he loved.
That was not an issue for the rest of the Bournemouth team as they threw everything forward. The tension was almost unbearable as the fourth official indicated an additional five minutes which seemed to last half an hour!
Howe’s men were so determined to sink their neighbours that they sent Begović up for two late corners but, with nerves shredding in the stands, this time Southampton stood strong to move to within a point of Swansea and safety.
Hughes said: "Everyone knew the circumstances, we needed a win and a draw or a loss wouldn't do. I thought we were good value for the lead, then we conceded from a set-piece.
“I worried how the guys would react because we had been damaged by previous results, but to a man they all stepped up, dug in, got back in the lead.
"At the end we were throwing bodies to keep them out. It is a huge result for us. We need to have the teams above us looking over their shoulder, and this result does that."
This first victory under Hughes meant there was now a momentum shift and, despite the heartbreak of a last-gasp equaliser at Everton next time out, Saints then won at Swansea to secure survival.
Two years later and the boot was on the other foot with Bournemouth on the verge of the drop and Southampton showing a similar ruthless streak as they won 2-0 at the Vitality to effectively relegate their neighbours ensuring that, for two seasons at least, “there are no south coast derbies!”
Saints: McCarthy, Cédric, Bednarek, Yoshida, Hoedt, Bertrand, Romeu, Lemina, Tadić (Ward-Prowse 87), Redmond (Long 59), Austin (Højbjerg 72). Unused subs: Forster, Stephens, Sims, Gabbiadini.
Bournemouth: Begović, Francis, Aké, S Cook, Daniels, Fraser, L Cook, Gosling (Surman 72), Mousset (Ibe 64), King, Wilson (Defoe 64). Subs: Boruc, Smith, Mings, Pugh.
Referee: Anthony Taylor