A hat-trick from James Beattie inspired Southampton to mount a superb comeback from 2-0 down against Fulham as George Strachan’s side roared back to win 4-2.

Fulham looked as if they had snapped their miserable losing streak as they scored twice in the first 25 minutes at St. Mary’s to put themselves in a commanding position. Lee Clark, making his first start since winning his battle to return to full fitness after rupturing his achilles, was somewhat fortunate to open the scoring after he stripped Anders Svensson of possession and surged towards the Saints box. His shot looped over Antti Niemi having struck the covering Michael Svensson.

Shocking home defending handed the Whites a second. Steve Finnan and Steve Marlet had combined impressive along the right flank but there appeared to be no danger as Southampton had plenty of defenders in position to deal with the Irish international’s cross. The red and white shirts paused and Malbranque took advantage, ghosting in to guide a furious past a furious Niemi.

But Fulham quickly throw away their carefully crafted cushion. Referee Mark Halsey adjudged Alain Goma guilty of handling Brett Ormerod’s ball on and Beattie blasted in the penalty to halve the Saints’ arrrears. The striker headed Southampton level just before the interval, shrugging off the attentions of Zat Knight to guide in a cross from former Fulham winger Fabrice Fernandes.

The momentum was now all with Strachan’s side. Beattie wasted no time in troubling the Fulham defence after the interval and completed his hat-trick in the 52nd minute. The visitors inexplicably left him unmarked from Anders Svensson’s free-kick and Beattie glanced in a terrific header, undaunted by the giant frame of van der Sar, who had desperately dashed off his line to try and avert the danger.

Southampton were now in total command and made sure of all three points when the experienced Brett Ormerod guided home his sixth goal in three matches after fantastic wing play by Chris Marsden.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Niemi; Dodd, Bridge, M. Svensson, Lundekvam; Marsden, Oakley, Anders Svensson, Fernandes, Beattie, Ormerod (Delgado 79). Subs Not Used: Jones, Telfer, Williams, Tessem.

BOOKED: M. Svensson.

FULHAM (4-5-1): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Goma, Knight (Ouaddoh 59); Djetou (Hayles 63), Clark, Legwinski, Malbranque, Boa Morte; Marlet. Subs (not used): Taylor, Melville, Stolcers.

BOOKED: Boa Morte, Goma.

REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).


Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).