Southampton 3-2 Charlton Athletic (December 2003)

Goalscorers: Michael Svensson 14, Brett Ormerod 45, 85, Scott Parker 46, 65

Teams:

Southampton: Antti Niemi, Jason Dodd, Claus Lundekvam, Danny Higginbotham, Michael Svensson, Rory Delap, David Prutton, Paul Telfer, James Beattie, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars (Kevin Phillips 77)

Charlton Athletic: Dean Kiely, Jonathan Fortune, Hermann Hreidarsson, Radostin Kishishev, Chris Perry, Matt Holland, Scott Parker, Graham Stuart, Claus Jensen, Paolo Di Canio (Carlton Cole 76), Jason Euell

Referee: Peter Walton, Attendance: 30,513

Southampton and Charlton Athletic were two of the early season surprises in the 2003-2004 campaign. Both clubs were among the chasing pack fighting for European qualification alongside Fulham and regular challengers, Newcastle United and Liverpool FC. The Saints and the Addicks were about to produce a thrilling Sunday afternoon of entertainment on the south coast.

Before the game, Southampton paid their respects to club president Ted Bates, who passed away on 28th November 2003, aged 85. He was a former player, manager and director and had earned the title of Mr. Southampton.

Despite being winless in their last four matches, Southampton made the sharper start and took the lead after 14 minutes. Centre-back Michael Svensson managed to make enough contact on Rory Delap’s goal-bound shot and it crept over the goal-line, despite the best efforts of Jason Euell to clear. It was Southampton’s first Premier League goal in 371 minutes. Delap nearly made it 2-0 shortly afterwards, firing a low shot which forced Dean Kiely to make a good save at full stretch.

David Prutton and Saints’ top goalscorer, James Beattie also managed to sting the palms of Kiely before the home side got a deserved second goal right on the stroke of half-time. Beattie did brilliantly to square the ball for strike partner Brett Ormerod to turn home and ensured Southampton had a lead going into the interval which their dominance showed.

The game would be turned by some individual brilliance from rising talent Scott Parker. Infront of England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, Parker immediately cut Southampton’s lead in half within a minute of the restart. The midfielder’s beautifully placed shot left Antti Niemi without a chance of saving. Graham Stuart then hit the crossbar as the visitors enjoyed their most prominent attacking spell of the game. With 25 minutes left, the comeback had been completed. Parker found some space and curled in another special effort. This time, it was a 25-yard strike which saw Niemi completely stranded.

Late on though, Southampton snatched the points. From another set-piece, Charlton struggled to clear their lines and Ormerod hooked home from close-range to ensure all three points would be claimed by Gordon Strachan’s side, taking them into eighth place in the table.

Southampton would spend Christmas in the top four but Strachan left in February to take a break from management and they faded to 12th by the season’s end. Charlton finished a brilliant seventh, their best-ever top-flight finish but did sell star asset Parker in the January transfer window to Chelsea for £10 million.

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