THE refrain from the away end at Southampton 10 years ago this week was decidedly optimistic at the start of the second half – with the chorus of “We’re gonna win 4-3” even raising a smile or two from buoyant Saints supporters.
Perhaps in the final analysis, maybe those Whites punters just knew something that others didn’t. Or maybe not...
Gallows humour arrived from the 3,500 United hordes back on November 19, 2005 – and they have needed a fair bit of that in the past decade on occasions as well.
With Leeds trailing 3-0 at the break, a long trek home and a painful dissection of a dismal defeat beckoned. But then something truly remarkable happened.
In the space of 15 astonishing, delicious, scarcely believable minutes, the match turned on its head – forcing both sets of supporters to look at the scoreline at the final whistle in incredulous disbelief with a fair bit of head-shaking going on.
Most of the vast majority of the Championship’s first 30,000-plus crowd of the season got more than their money’s worth as Leeds pilfered a 4-3 victory in an audacious heist which the Independent labelled as the “Great St Mary’s Robbery.”
The build-up to the game on the south coast saw former Garforth supremo and then Saints coach Simon Clifford depart the club, with the north-easterner having spoken before the match about Southampton players being “unfit” and prone to “letting games slip in the last five to 10 minutes.” Given the subsequent roller-coaster events on matchday, he may have had a point.
Latvian forward Marian Pahars, in his first start in twenty injury-ravaged months, who made the initial headlines, after putting the Saints in front on 27 minutes.
It got worse for Leeds with powerhouse midfielder Nigel Quashie firing a double before the break, including a strike from the spot.
But the tide started to turn at the break with the Saints, somewhat prematurely, making three changes, although Redknapp insisted afterwards that none of the changes were due to players being rested, claiming that Pahars, Dennis Wise and Claus Lundekvam were all “injured”.
But it was another substitute, David Healy, who came on midway through the second period, who proved the catalyst to the stunning late comeback.
That said, a header 19 minutes from time from captain Paul Butler looked like mere consolation.
It was perhaps only when Robbie Blake tapped home six minutes later following Healy’s angled drive that things started to get serious for the Saints.
With Leeds and Healy in particular creating havoc down Southampton’s right, the osts eventually buckled again with Healy firing home from the spot after Danny Higginbottom was penalised for handball with six minutes left.
Then the comeback was complete two minutes later when Liam Miller, on loan from Manchester United, converted Rob Hulse’s pass – for easily the most meaningful contribution of his time at Elland Road.
Offering his take, United boss Kevin Blackwell said: “At half-time we were 3-0 down and playing poorly. You’d have to be the eternal optimist to think we could come back from that...”
As for Redknapp, he was far more unequivocal saying: “I didn’t scream at them. What’s the point?”
“I’m on the floor as well – I need picking up as well. It’s unbelievable.”