On This Day In History March 23rd
Monday, 23rd Mar 2020 10:09
What were Saints fans doing on this day in our dark and distant past and where you there to witness it, read on to find out and share your memories.
I was still a long way from being born in 1951, but on 23rd March that year we suffered a 2-0 loss at Queens Park Rangers, initially this season looked like we would go one better than the previous one when we lost out on promotion to the top flight on goal average, although spare a thought for Sheffield United, they lost out too on the same basis to the third side who had 52 points, their local rivals Sheffield Wednesday, it must have been an interesting evening in the pubs of Sheffield that night.
Fast forward to 1957 and we had been relegated to Division three(south), but things had changed and Ted Bates was now in charge and the club was being rebuilt, we spent most of the first half of the season in the top two, but 7 defeats out of 8 games in January/February cost us dearly and we would finish 4th.
March 23rd saw a Hampshire derby though, a trip to Aldershot where 6,473 the second lowest crowd we played in front of either home or away saw Terry Paine on his 18th birthday score a late equaliser for a 1-1 draw.
1963 saw us a lot farther north, this time Middlesbrough where we won 2-1 courtesy of a Dave Burnside brace, it mattered little we were solidly mid table for most of the season, even a late flurry could only get us to our final position of 11th.
Our next March 23rd League game in 1968 saw us now in the top flight and we travelled to Burnley for a game played in torrential rain and mud, we lost 2-0 but we did get something out of the game the second Burnley goal was scored by Brian O'Neil and he would be signed in 1970 to become a club legend in his four year stay.
1973/74 was a dark season in the clubs history, we would eventually be relegated, but perhaps 23rd March was the day that sealed our eventual fate when Birmingham City arrived at the Dell for a 4 pointer relegation scrap (only 2 points for a win back then).
Another big crowd at the Dell and hopes were high after our win against Leicester a few days earlier and the arrival of Peter Osgood.
Birmingham scored two goals in the first half through Kenny Burns and Trevor Francis and then fought a rearguard action in the second to thwart wave after wave of Saints attacks and we couldn't break down the Blues defence.
At the end of the season this result truly mattered, we went down on 36 points, Birmingham were one position above us and safe on 37, a draw tat day would have changed history.
As a 12 year old stood at the front of the Milton Road end,behind the goal I remember the constant attacks, I also remember how the crowd to the rear of me all left 5 minutes from time to go round to the Archers Road to confront the visiting supporters, this was quite normal back in those days.
The walk down Hill Lane to central station where I caught my bus home was full of trouble and I remember a bloodied Brummie sprinting down the middle of the road in his full boot boy outfit being chased by some Saints fans in similar attire.
Fast forward from 1974 to 1985 and a lot of water had gone under the bridge, on March 23rd little did we know that the Lawrie McMenemy era was about to end, we finish in the top 5 this season and qualify for Europe in the UEFA Cup, but we would not play in that competition, due to the events at Heysel in the European Cup Final.
Today was a bad day 35 years ago, we went to White Hart Lane and for 41 minutes held our own conceding on 41 minutes when Ossie Ardiles scored, that gave us high hopes for the second half especially when Danny Wallace fired past Ray Clemence to equalise, but then we collapsed.
In the final 24 minutes Spurs would score 4 to win the game 5-1, some suggesting that maybe debutant Jimmy Case who was about to turn 31 legs had gone, it would be another 6 years and and 272 games before they did.
Ironically in 1991 when we travelled to Chelsea Jimmy Case was within six weeks of his final game for the club, this was a season of disappointment where we were solidly in mid table throughout, but the rumblings amongst the fans was about Chris Nicholl's failure to get the best out of his squad.
They had a point, Tim Flowers, Alan Shearer and Rod Wallace would all win the title after leaving the Dell, so would Jeff Kenna but he only played in the last two games of the season, Neil Ruddock, Barry Horne & Paul Rideout would all win cups with future teams and then the likes of Matt Le Tissier, Jason Dodd and Glen Cockerill and if you think we waste big money on signings that do little these days I present to you Alan Mcloughlin who signed in the December of this season.
That was a decent side for Nicholl to pick from, but it was inconsistent it could win well one week and then lose to the worst team in the division, Derby went down with only 24 points , 17 from safety, six of them came from us a 1-0 win at the Dell and then a 6-2 win at the Baseball Ground in the penultimate game. that result probably sealed Chris Nicholl's fate.
But on this day we beat Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge Alan Shearer and Le Tissier doing the honours past future Saints Dave Beasant.
Those pesky leap years meant that we had to wait till 2002 for another League game on 23rd March and a trip to Sunderland for Gordon Strachan's rejuvenated side, when he arrived Saints looked dead and buried in October, now we were comfortably 11th .
Sunderland were struggling, but a Jason McAteer goal on the hour gave them the lead, but we were made of stern stuff and Jo Tessem headed an equaliser with three minutes to go for a point we well deserved and Strachan thought we should have had more.
It was a sad week though as Matt Le Tissier announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season, fianlly succumbing to the niggling injuries that had blighted the final few years of his career, but at 33 what a career that was, 540 games in total and 209 goals in all competitions, that is why he is arguably the greatest player to ever play for the club.
Photo: Action Images
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