There once was a time when Southampton would regularly reach this time of the year, stir and stretch, and escape from whatever relegation tangle they had worked themselves into during the course of the winter.
These feats of escapology featured an assorted cast but often led by Matt Le Tissier, whose goals and assists would garner points from the most unlikely places to life the Saints above the dotted line by the end of the season.
By the time they had fought back from 3-1 down to rescue a point against Tottenham, that same vibe was back in the air by the Solent and the name of interim boss Ruben Selles was ringing around St Mary’s.
For Le Tissier, read James Ward-Prowse, overlooked by England this week but holding his nerve from the spot to beat former teammate Fraser Forster in the 90th minute.
But there were others who played a key part in this point. Theo Walcott, remember him? The Spurs fans certainly did. They booed the former Arsenal winger from the outset but they could not prevent him scoring his first goal for nearly two years, Southampton’s second, to give them hope at 3-2.
James Ward-Prowse sealed the comeback with a dramatic penalty deep into added time as Southampton came from behind to draw 3-3 with Tottenham
Having missed twice from the spot in previous games the Southampton captain stepped up to secure the point for his side
The Saints remain at the bottom of the Premier League table but showed plenty of fight to stay in the game late on and take a point
And Ainsley Maitland-Niles, another former Arsenal man, jeered from the away end, who came on when Saints lost both central defenders to injury and won the penalty converted by Ward-Prowse to earn a point.
All of which came as a shock to Tottenham and damaged their top four hopes. Antonio Conte must have thought the points were safe when Ivan Perisic scored his first goal for the club, to give them a 3-1 lead in the 74th minute.
Pedro Porro had given them the lead and Harry Kane restored the lead after the first equaliser from Che Adams.
The first half was disrupted by stoppages and four injuries, with both sides were forced to make early changes. First Richarlison pulled up injured and went off is distress with the collar of his shirt pulled up over his face.
It is the third significant injury setback of the season for the Brazilian. One threatened to rule him out of the World Cup but he made it back to full fitness only to suffer another while he was in Qatar, playing for Brazil.
His frustration boiled over after Tottenham’s Champions League exit against Milan, when Richarlison bemoaned his “sh** season” and grumbled about selection but seemed to make a fresh with a fine display in last weekend’s win against Nottingham Forest.
Richarlison (L) was one of four players to be substituted before the break due to injury with both sides losing two players
January signing Pedro Porro opened the scoring just before the break with a well-taken finish from inside the box
Harry Kane had scored the second goal for the visitors to make it 2-1 on 65 minutes with his 12th career goal against Southampton
He kept his place in the team only to limp off, replaced by Dejan Kulusevski within five minutes.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Southampton (4-4-2): Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bednarek (Maitland-Nilesat 34′), Bella-Kotchap (Salisuat 8′), Perraud; S Armstrong (Alcaraz 70′), Ward-Prowse, Lavia, Elyounoussi (Sulemana 70′); Walcott, Adams (Mara 70′)
Subs: McCarthy, A Armstrong, Onuachu, Diallo
Goals: Adams 46′, Walcott 77′, Ward-Prowse pen 90+3′
Tottenham (3-4-2-1): Forster; Romero, Dier, Lenglet; Porro (Royal 86′), Skipp, Højbjerg, Davies (Perisic37′); Richarlison (Kulusevski 5′, Sarr 86′), Son Heung-min; Kane
Subs: D Sánchez, Danjuma, Tanganga, Lucas Moura, Austin
Goals: Porro 45+1′, Kane 65′, Perisic 75′
Southampton’s Armel Bella-Kotchap followed him off, almost immediately, gingerly holding his right forearm with his left hand. With less than eight minutes on the clock, it was the earliest that both teams had made a change in a Premier League game, according to Opta.
Two more followed before the interval. Jan Bednarek required a long spell of treatment midway through the first half. Bednarek tried to continue before going off in pain, leaving Ainsley Maitland-Niles to step into an unfamiliar role in centre defence. Ben Davies was hurt and gave way to Ivan Perisic.
In and around all this, the game was even with flurries of activity at both ends. Southampton cut Spurs open to create the game’s first chance for Stuart Armstrong, whose shot was blocked. James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams both tried to turn in the ricochet without success.
Theo Walcott, sharp and dangerous at the age of 34, burst clear to be foiled by Fraser Forster, back at his former club, before the flag went up to rule him offside.
Eric Dier glanced a header wide from a Kulusevski cross following a short corner routine, and right wing-back Porro proved a constant attacking threat Tottenham.
Twice Porro fired shots over when well-placed and one of his crosses picked out Son Heung-min who miscued his attempted volley. Son and Porro combined again for the opener in the first of seven minutes added for stoppages at the end of the first half.
This time, the Korean was the provider with a pass to tempt Porro forward once more on the right. Driving forward into the penalty box, the Spaniard finished in confident fashion, high past Saints ‘keeper Gavin Bazunu and in off the bar.
The lead did not last long because Southampton were level within a minute of the restart. Romeo Lavia released Walcott and he squared to Adams, who tapped in from close range, his first Premier League goal since November.
This energised the crowd and confidence flooded back into the home team. Suddenly, they passed and they moved with fluency. Kyle Walker Peters fizzed a cross across goal and Ward-Prowse swerved a free kick over from a position where he can be more punishing.
Still, Spurs were dangerous on the counter attack. Kane fired over by way of a reminder and then found the net, drifting behind Maitland-Niles and heading in at the back post from a deep, teasing cross by Kulusevski.
The penalty was given inside the additional five minutes at St. Mary’s to give Southampton a chance at a comeback
Pep Matar Sarr was penalised for a clumsy challenge on Ainsley Maitland-Niles inside the penalty area prior to a VAR check
It was Kane’s ninth headed goal of the season equalling a Premier League record set by Duncan Ferguson in 1996/97.
Perisic stretched the lead with a sweet volley but Saints responded with Forster making a flying save from Maitland-Niles before Walcott reduced the deficit, turning in his first goal for almost two years from a nod-down by substitute Sekoe Mara.
Forster made a double save from Mara but could not stop the penalty, conceded by Pape Sarr for a foul on Maitland-Niles. Sarr went to clear a bouncing ball but Maitland-Niles nipped in first. Then he happily made the most of it as Sarr kicked the back of his leg.
Referee Simon Hooper pointed to the spot and his VAR Tony Harrington backed his decision and Ward-Prowse fired it into the top corner.
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