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James Beattie wants Southampton to make it a St Mary's fortress
JAMES Beattie still has the ball at home – a reminder of the day he put three goals past one of the greatest keepers of the modern era.
It was ten years ago this month that the striker hit his one and only Saints hat-trick, in a 4-2 Premier League victory against Fulham at a windswept St Mary’s.
Even the distinguished presence of Edwin van der Sar in the visitors’ goal could do nothing to stop the forward breezing through the Cottagers’ back line that day.
Lee Clark’s early strike, via a deflection off Michael Svensson’s back, and Steed Malbranque’s emphatic finish, after some rather generous defending allowed a simple low cross to slip through to him, had put Fulham well in command.
No matter, though.
It took just two minutes for Saints to pull one back, Beattie firing a trademark penalty into the top corner after Alain Goma had handled.
The match was level by half-time, as Beattie cushioned a header past Van der Sar having latched onto the end of a Fabrice Fernandes cross.
“We were two down and the fans were giving us a bit of abuse,” recalled Beattie.
“But I scored a penalty and then we got it back to 2-2. Fernandes delivered a great ball to the back post and I headed it back across Van der Sar.
“We came out in the second half and played much better.”
Within ten minutes of the restart, Saints had the lead. Anders Svensson’s free-kick from the left touchline skidded off the top of a leaping Beattie’s head and flew past Van der Sar.
“Anders put in a freekick and I just glanced it into the far corner,” said Beattie. “Then Brett (Ormerod) scored the last one.”
The match proved to be a microcosm of Saints’ season, starting badly but finishing with a flourish.
One win in their first eight games had left Gordon Strachan’s men in the relegation zone.
But the Fulham success capped a three-match winning streak that lifted the team into mid-table.
It was also a second consecutive home victory – something a win over the London side on Sunday would mean for the current team.
The game finished with Beattie catching Antti Niemi’s goal-kick as the final whistle blew. The hattrick ball was safely tucked under his shirt and now has pride of place at his house.
“It was my first hattrick,” said Beattie. “I used to get quite a few braces, but it was my first hattrick.
“It was great and I’ve still got the ball. There’s a couple of messages from Oaksey (Matt Oakley) and Bridgey (Wayne Bridge) on it saying ‘First of many’ – but obviously it wasn’t!”
Beattie’s hat-trick helped spark not only his most successful season ever – he scored 24 times across all competitions – but also one of Saints’ most memorable campaigns, with the club reaching the FA Cup final and finishing eighth in the Premier League.
The 34-year-old, currently a free agent, is keeping his fingers crossed that a positive result for Nigel Adkins’ men against Fulham this weekend will help kickstart their own campaign.
“Hopefully it will,” said Beattie. “It’s a great opportunity and a big game for them, being at home.
“But Fulham have signed some good players and they will be hoping to get a result as well.
“The key to it is the home form. That is going to be massive, as Norwich and Swansea have shown. I think Swansea is one of the hardest places to go to in the country and get a result.
“They’ve got to try and emulate teams like that.”
Saints had no trouble with results at St Mary’s in the 2002/03 campaign. They lost just two of their 19 home fixtures in the Premier League that season.
“It was just a great time in my life down in Southampton,” said Beattie, looking back on it.
“Gordon Strachan was the best manager I have worked under. He was brilliant.
“I still speak to him now. He’s a top guy.”
Beattie added: “I remember leading the goal charts all the way through that season.
“Barclaycard were giving out a trophy for the first to ten, and the first to 20, which I got.
“Then I think Van Nistelrooy scored three in his second-tolast game and Henry got one to go ahead of me.
“We were playing at Maine Road on the final day and I was just shooting from everywhere trying to get a goal.”
Rather than Beattie, it is Rickie Lambert who is now shouldering the bulk of the goalscoring responsibilities at Saints.
A hat-trick for him against the Cottagers this weekend would do Adkins’ side the world of good.
“He’s done really well,” said Beattie of the man currently leading the Saints line. “He’s been prolific in League One and the Championship, and he’s carried that on and scored a few in the Premier League now.
“Hopefully he can keep that going. He just needs the service. He’s shown that, if you give him that, he’s a great finisher.
“I’ve met him on a couple of occasions and he’s a really nice lad. You want people like that to do well in the game.
“The fans love him and he just gives the whole club a lift. The rest of the lads really respond to him being on the pitch. Look at the Manchester City game. He came on and scored within a few minutes and straight away they kicked on and found another gear.”
That is something Saints will be hoping to find again on Sunday.