On March 17th 1979, Saints took the lead in a Wembley cup final for the second time in four seasons only to lose 3-2 to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest. 

Here is Peter East’s Southern Evening Echo match report, 40 years on.

SAINTS had Nottingham Forest on the rack for half an hour in the League Cup final on Saturday.

But Forest, the League Cup holders and First Division champions who could also win this season’s European Cup, showed their true capabilities as they won the game with a blistering second half performance.

And in the end, superbly taken goals by David Peach after 16 minutes and Nick Holmes after 87 minutes served only to preserve Saints’ respectability.

Daily Echo: David Peach gives Saints the lead after rounding Peter ShiltonDavid Peach gives Saints the lead after rounding Peter Shilton

In between those memorable moments Forest’s fast and fearless Gary Birtles established himself as the hero of the hour-and-a-half by scoring in the 50th and 77th minutes and Tony Woodcock netted after 82 minutes to make the game safe.

The moment of misery came for Saints in the 50th minute when big Chris Nicholl, who has made a marvellous contribution to Saints’ success of the past two seasons, put his side in trouble.

Saints were clinging grimly to the lead gained by Peach’s 16th-minute goal and were doing well in the face of a really determined Forest onslaught at the start of the second half.

Then winger John Robertson, who had been given little scope by right-back Ivan Golac, drove the ball in low but as goalkeeper Terry Gennoe prepared for a comfortable pick-up, Nicholl put his foot in the way of the ball, Gennoe was stranded and Birtles won the race for the loose ball to crack it into the net.

Daily Echo: Davis Peach, Terry Gennoe and Chris Nicholl can only watch as Garry Birtles equalises Davis Peach, Terry Gennoe and Chris Nicholl can only watch as Garry Birtles equalises

Then, with extra time beginning to look a distinct possibility, Nicholl, twice a League Cup winner with Aston Villa – in 1975 and 1977 – saw his chances of a third triumph disappear when Birtles sped on to a pass from Woodcock and got the better of him to make it 2-1 in the 77th minute.

Saints’ hopes died completely after 82 minutes when Scottish World Cup player Archie Gemmill pushed a pass for Woodcock to hammer a splendid shot past Gennoe for Forest’s third goal.

Daily Echo: Tony Woodcock fires in Forest's third goalTony Woodcock fires in Forest's third goal

But there was at least some consolation for Saints. They did manage to put two goals past the brilliant Peter Shilton and there was no fluke about either of them. 

For the first, Peach pushed a short pass to skipper Alan Ball on the edge of the Forest penalty area and darted forward before receiving the return and rounding Shilton to score.

Then with the game virtually lost, Saints produced another quality goal when a cross from one-time Forest winger Terry Curran was turned back by Malcolm Waldron for Holmes to crash home an unstoppable shot.

It was too late to save the game, but Saints at least had the satisfaction of knowing that they had battled with one of the best teams in Europe and not let themselves down.

In the first half they were worthy of their lead with Waldron keeping a very tight rein on Woodcock and Nicholl clamping down well on Birtles.

At the same time, Golac was making sure that Forest gained nothing from the left-wing probings of Robertson, with Steve Williams doing well in front of him to prevent Gemmill from giving Robertson the support he suddenly needed.

On the Saints left, Peach was having an outstanding game and he did far more than scoring a goal, while Holmes, too, was getting through a tremendous amount of work.

Meanwhile, those two vastly experienced skippers Alan Ball and John McGovern were having a rare old battle of wits in the middle and up to half-time Ball had the better of it.

Up front it was a waiting game, and against those towering central defenders Lloyd and Needham, Phil Boyer and Austin Hayes were given little scope, but they tugged and tore at the Forest defence to add to the uncertainty of the current champions while Curran was doing well enough out on the right against Frank Clark.

But in the second half the picture changed and it was almost a carbon copy of the game I saw in Nottingham last Wednesday when Archie Gemmill suddenly got into his stride and things began to happen.

Gemmill’s improvement had an immediate impact and Saints suddenly began to look stretched, with extra room being afforded to Robertson, who was only too pleased to take advantage.

At the same time, McGovern and O’Neill were growing in confidence and the key battle for midfield supremacy swung dramatically in Forest’s favour.

So did the game, although Saints did attempt a late shuffle in sending on substitute Tony Sealy for his first taste of League Cup action in place of Hayes in the 83rd minute.

The only booking of the afternoon came after 61 minutes when Curran had his name taken by referee Peter Reeves, who handled the game well, for a foul on McGovern.

Nottingham Forest: Shilton, Barrett, Clark, McGovern, Lloyd Needham, O’Neill, Gemmill, Birtles, Woodcock, Robertson. Substitute: Bowyer. 

Southampton: Gennoe, Golac, Peach, Williams, Nicholl, Waldron, Ball, Bowyer, Hayes (Sealy 83), Holmes, Curran.

Attendance: 100,000.

This was the first of three cup matches in five days for Saints. Two days after losing at Wembley, they drew 1-1 at Arsenal in the FA Cup - before losing the replay 2-0 at Highbury on the Wednesday.