By Oliver Bhurrut
ROBERT Earnshaw's deadly double saw Albion come within three minutes of
their first win of the season on the road.
But Anders Svensson's two goals either side ensured the points were shared
in this bottom-of-the-table scrap.
Svensson gave struggling Southampton a 27th-minute lead as the Baggies
looked far from ending a 35-year wait for a victory on Saints soil.
But Earnshaw, making his third successive start, had the 3,200 sell-out
traveling Albion support singing his 'Earnie' signature tune as he opened
his account for his new club thanks to 28th and 37th-minute strikes.
But Saints' Swedish midfielder broke Baggies hearts in the 87th minute as he
fired home a last-gasp equaliser with the aid of a deflection off Paul
Darren Purse returned from a four-game ban to replace Thomas Gaardsoe, who
was left out altogether, as Frank Burrows made just one change to the
starting XI that lost 4-1 against Chelsea last Saturday.
But the Baggies' caretaker boss did swap Zoltan Gera, who recovered from a
stomach bug in time for the game, and Jonathan Greening onto opposite
The first chance of the game fell to Southampton in the 13th minute as
Dexter Blackstock powered towards the penalty area and Purse's tackle
directed the ball into the path of Darren Kenton.
The Saints right-back had all the time in the world and unleashed a fierce
drive from the right-side of the box to force Russell Hoult to parry.
Albion's first shot came three minutes later when Gera drilled a 20-yard
volley well over the bar.
Robert Earnshaw tried his luck in the 23rd minute when the ball fell to him
fortuitously and he fired a low 30-yard shot just past the left-hand
The hosts then punished Albion four minutes later when they left Anders
Svensson unmarked at the back post and he latched onto Paul Telfer's
right-wing cross to head home into the far corner.
But Albion replied within a minute as Gera centred from the right and
Earnshaw got the slightest of touches on Greening's downward header to
direct the ball past Alan Blayney and bag his first goal for the club since
his £3 million move to the Black Country.
And the Wales international sent Albion's 3,200 travelling supporters into
raptures in the 37th minute.
Greening broke into the box on the left and his driven cross into the
six-yard box rebounded off Claus Lundekvam to give the pint-sized striker
the chance to smash the ball home just inside the left-hand post from ten
Gera almost added a third Baggies goal four minutes before the break when he
curled a delicious 25-yard free-kick towards the top right corner of the
goal, only for Blayney to pull off a spectacular one-handed save.
And Earnshaw came close to getting the chance to complete a first-half
hat-trick in the final minute as Kanu set Greening racing clear on the left.
The Baggies midfielder centred immediately for the former Cardiff ace, who
would have had a free shot in front of goal but just could not get a foot to
There was still time however, for Steve Wigley's men to come within inches
of grabbing an equalizer as last week's Highbury hero Rory Delap saw
his18-yard shot loop off Andy Johnson's foot and just over the bar with
Neil Clement brought the best out of stand-in goalkeeper Blayney within 50
seconds of the restart as he blazed a vicious left-footed strike on target.
Greening again tested the Saints' stopper moments later as fired an angled
left-footed 18-yard shot towards the far top corner.
Blayney parried the ball up into the air and Jelle Van Damme looked like
heading clear but he mistimed his clearance and Earnshaw came within a
whisker of notching his third goal of the game as he instinctively connected
with an overhead kick, only to see the ball go inches wide of the open goal.
Paul Robinson made a crucial goal-saving challenge in the 66th minute as
Kevin Phillips, making his return from injury, found some space and
unleashed a goalbound shot from 15 yards.
Albion had a scare in the 70th minute as Hoult spilled Svensson's 25-yard
drive and was fortunate to have Robinson on hand to put the ball out for a
corner with the goal gaping.
Delap headed just over from Telfer's cross moments later and the Saints
began piling on the pressure.
Their efforts finally told as they grabbed a dramatic late equalizer when
Svensson drove into the box on the right and saw his cross-cum-shot deflect
off Robinson and past Hoult at the near post to break Baggies hearts.
ALBION (4-4-2): Hoult; Scimeca, Moore, Purse, Albrechtsen; Greening,
Johnson, Clement, Gera (Koumas 84); Earnshaw, Kanu (Horsfield 77). Subs not
used: Kuszczak (gk), Albrechtsen, Dyer.
SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Blayney; Kenton, Jakobson (McCann 60), Lundekvam, Van
Damme; Telfer, Delap, Svensson, Nilsson (Prutton 84); Blackstock (Ormerod
63), Phillips. Subs not used: Poke (gk), Higginbotham.
BOOKINGS: SOUTHAMPTON - Blackstock (foul 34), Kenton (foul 83).
GOALS: SOUTHAMPTON - Svensson (27, 87); ALBION - Earnshaw (28,37).
REFEREE: S Bennett (Orpington).
ALBION STARMAN: Darren Purse.