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Press article:

Southampton sinking fast as Solano sparks revival - 19/04/2005

Southampton sinking fast as Solano sparks revival
   Harry Redknapp
   David O'Leary
   Aston Villa

"Harry and Jim, Harry and Jim," sang the Southampton faithful to their managerial duo, with belligerent optimism throughout a euphoric first half. Their near-shipwrecked team were leading 2-0, and Harry Redknapp confidently strutted the touchline.

Within 10 minutes of the second half, they were silenced. Redknapp and his sidekick Jim Smith were definitely not the boys of this afternoon, Southampton plummeting to a third consecutive three-goal deficit Premiership defeat - indeed, 14 conceded in their last five games.

Southampton are now metaphorically all but dead in the Solent, rudderless and holed below the waterline. With three of their remaining five games away (Bolton, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace) and Norwich and Manchester United at home, there will be no easy points - certainly not as easy as three should have been on Saturday, when Aston Villa played seemingly blindfolded for 45 minutes.

Villa are the most seesaw team in sight. Last week they morally routed West Bromwich in the first half, then sagged in the second: now they reversed the process, Carlton Cole, Nolberto Solano and Steve Davis scoring three times in 18 minutes to silence the home terraces, and reduce the St Mary's boardroom to wondering whether Redknapp's switch of office down the A27 was quite such a bonanza after all.

Redknapp is master of that beguiling contradiction: attractive, attacking, losing football. His career with Bournemouth, West Ham and Portsmouth had been long on entertainment but short on defensive reliability.

The circumstances of his arrival at Southampton drew unflattering comments and there are many who will shed no tears should Southampton sink.

It was a bizarre day, too, for Redknapp's rival, David O'Leary, who won by making one substitution and four positional changes at half-time. He had the grace to admit that it had been "injuries, not inspiration".

He had inexplicably omitted from midfield Solano, one of his most effective players last week. And with injury and suspension in defence he had to include full-back Mark Delaney at centre-back. For 45 minutes Villa would have had difficulty defending an empty wastepaper basket.

Kevin Phillips hammered Southampton ahead in the fourth minute, when Peter Crouch robbed a dreaming Jlloyd Samuel on the goal-line and presented a sitter to his unmarked partner. Ten minutes later, Crouch swept through on Jamie Redknapp's pass to beat a poorly positioned Thomas Sorensen.

At half-time, with Martin Laursen injured, O'Leary switched Samuel to central defence, Gareth Barry to left-back, Lee Hendrie to the flank and introduced Solano on the right. Solano proceeded to turn the match with the wits of a Gordon Cowans.

Cole, then Solano and finally Davis, swept home the goals that left Southampton staring down the dreaded hole.


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