IN THE week that marks the 20th anniversary since Saints' final league match at the Dell, the Echo looks back at when the team took on Brighton in a friendly – the last ever game played at the beloved stadium.

In a way, it was fitting that the final whistle never actually sounded at The Dell.

The premature pitch invasion which sent the players scurrying for the sanctuary of the dressing room meant the game remained unfinished.

The final Premiership game played just a week beforehand was an exhilarating experience, this was rather sad.

The date was May 27, 2001, when Matthew Le Tissier turned on the party pieces and local boys Francis Benali and Wayne Bridge went at it full tilt.

And to be fair, both sides did get stuck in for the first 25 minutes which were fast and furious, until the heat and lack of real purpose took their toll.

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Chris Marsden beat Le Tissier to a Stuart Ripley cross only to clear the bar with a tame header which would have had far more force and conviction had it been for real.

Bobby Zamora, Albion's 31-goal striker, would also surely have produced a more clinical strike than the one which was well blocked by Paul Jones coming off his line.

And then after 13 minutes, Uwe Rosler scored his first Southampton goal at The Dell - and, as it turned out, the last on the ground.

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A Le Tissier corner on the left was flicked on by Claus Lundekvam and nodded away by Matthew Wicks for Rosler to thump straight back in almost on the penalty spot, while it was still there.

It was almost a case of job done for both sets of players. Saints had got the win the occasion demanded while Brighton retained their dignity.

From then on the game went into a gradual wind-down.

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Without a competitive edge, the game was fast petering out as the heat took its toll on already tired legs.

Consequently, fans had to make their own entertainment and in doing so made it more of an occasion than a game.

They sang and chanted and created a wonderful party atmosphere, fully aware that it was their last chance.

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Even so, they were strangely quiet for the middle third of the game - probably because they were already busy dismantling the ground.

It was not so much a party, as a wrecking spree as they prised out their treasured seats as souvenirs.

It is hard to tell who had the last ever kick at the Dell because no-one knows exactly when the match ended.

More on the pitch invasion and souvenir taking in tomorrow's Echo and online.

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