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Saints beat Norwich 5-4 in a Premier League thriller at Carrow Road in 1994
As Matt Le Tissier swung the corner in, time was very nearly up – not just in the game, but perhaps in Saints’ entire season.
It was April 1994 and the clock at Carrow Road had long since ticked past the 90-minute mark.
The scoreboard read 4-4, and Saints, second from bottom and four points from safety before kick-off, were about to extend their winless Premier League run to eight games.
At that moment, their top-flight status was looking as precarious as the defending that had just been witnessed that particular afternoon.
But, with one final dramatic act, the outlook for Saints’ entire season changed completely.
Tightly confined in a small corner of the Norwich ground, Le Tissier milked every last bit of space he could, pressing his back up against the emotionally-exhausted band of travelling fans packed into the away section.
The Saints captain had already helped the team fight back on three separate occasions, by scoring a hat-trick, but his work was not yet complete.
Propelled by the collective hopes and prayers of those behind him, he took two purposeful steps forward and fired in a delivery of devastating quality.
As the ball fizzed into the area, the imposing frame of centre half Ken Monkou stormed off to meet it.
Resembling a superhero flinging enemy bodies out of the way, he powered forward through the Norwich defence and connected perfectly with the ball, sending it thumping into the ground, before bouncing past Canaries keeper Bryan Gunn and into the top corner.
“I remember doing an interview after the game and saying ‘Hopefully we’ll look back at the end of the season and say Ken’s header was the goal that saved us from being relegated’ and sure enough it was,” recalled Le Tissier, ahead of today’s encounter between the two clubs. “We ended up staying up by a point.”
Monkou said: “I was going to go to the far post, but I changed my mind and went steaming in towards the near post.
“It was some game. You can imagine the pressure on us, because it was make or break really.
“Everyone thought this was the day that Southampton were going to go down finally. But we proved them wrong, like we did so many times.”
The day had started badly for Saints when Mark Robins controlled a Chris Sutton flick-on 20 yards out, twirled, and fired a left-foot shot into the top corner.
Le Tissier said: “We had been on such a bad run that, when we went behind, you had that sinking feeling in your stomach. But the character in the team was unbelievable.”
Saints soon levelled when Neil Maddison hit a shot across goal that deflected in off Norwich’s Rob Ullathorne.
“I remember Neil trying to claim it,” said Le Tissier. “We were like ‘Madders, it was going to hit the corner flag’ but we didn’t care – it was in the back of the net.”
If the first-half had been an open affair, what happened after the interval made it look like a cagey chess match by comparison.
“It was like there was no midfield and both teams were saying ‘OK, you have an attack, then we’ll have an attack, and let’s see what happens,’” said Le Tissier.
“It was end-to-end, like a basketball game.”
Norwich went ahead almost immediately, as Jeremy Goss headed home, before Chris Sutton made it 3-1 after Dave Beasant had palmed a Robins shot into his path.
As was so often the case, though, Saints were indebted to Le Tissier’s heroics for hauling them back into the game.
First, following a trademark drop of the shoulder, he beat Gunn with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the box, before squaring the match at 3-3 with a penalty, after Jeff Kenna had been tripped.
Straight from the kick-off, however, Norwich regained the lead, via a Sutton header.
But the hosts’ advantage was erased for good in the 72nd minute, when Kenna’s deep cross was headed home by Le Tissier.
It was a textbook and powerful downward header that gave Gunn no chance. It was, however, a complete fluke.
“It was my only perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot, and header), although the header I didn’t know much about if I’m honest. I had my eyes closed,” said Le Tissier, laughing.
“I could see this body coming across me and I thought I was going to get clattered, so I just kind of closed my eyes and braced myself for the worst.
“I felt the ball hit my head and then when I opened my eyes I saw it in the back of the net.”
It might have been an amazing comeback at 4-4, but Le Tissier admitted that even a point “might not be good enough”.
Yet, with time practically up, Monkou struck.
“The Saints fans were right behind me when I was taking the corner, so it was a brilliant place to be stood,” said Le Tissier.
“I remember Ken picked the ball up after it had gone in, ran over to where I was and threw it into the crowd so that the fans could keep it and waste a bit of time.”
Monkou said: “It was elation. We were in seventh heaven in a way, because we had achieved something unbelievable.
“It showed the spirit of the team at that time. That group was fantastic.”
The enormity of the result, which pushed Saints to within a point of safety ahead of their final five games, was not lost on the players.
“That was, for me, the pivotal moment in us staying up,” said Le Tissier.
“I think that not only gave us the belief that we could survive that season, but also in the following years when we got ourselves into trouble.”
Monkou, still proud of that moment, added: “It was great to know that, as a player, you had contributed your own stone to the foundation of Southampton at the time.”
Like Le Tissier, Monkou and Co, should the current Saints side win at Carrow Road today it will go a long way to cementing the club’s status in the Premier League once again.
April 9, 1994
Norwich 4 Saints 5
Norwich: Gunn, Ullathorne, Culverhouse, Prior, Bowen, Adams, Eadie (Woodthorpe 67), Crook, Goss, Megson (Robins 25), Sutton.
Norwich goals: Robins 37, Goss 48, Sutton 55, 63.
Saints: Beasant, Kenna, Monkou, Bound, Benali, Magilton, Charlton, Allen, Maddison, Le Tissier, Dowie.
Saints goals: Ullathorne og 44, Le Tissier 57, 63 pen, 72, Monkou 90. Referee: Keith Cooper.