Saints denied victory by Pompey wondergoal

A last gasp equaliser from Pompey snatched a point for the relegation threatened side as a thrilling derby was played out in an electric atmosphere in front of a packed […]

A last gasp equaliser from Pompey snatched a point for the relegation threatened side as a thrilling derby was played out in an electric atmosphere in front of a packed St Mary’s.

The excitement was palpable around the city and in the pubs as fans warmed up for the most important derby in decades. With Pompey needing the points in their attempt to survive and Saints hoping to further their promotion ambitions the game was crucial for both sides.

An terrific atmosphere at St Mary’s was tempered for the home fans by a Pompey goal at the death

Southampton hopes were boosted with the return of Rickie Lambert as he returned from injury having missed last weeks thrashing at the hands of Blackpool, while Adkins brought in Dean Hammond in an attempt to bring more grit and tenacity to the midfield.

A full blooded derby began in earnest as Morgan Schneiderlin earned himself a booking after only a minute when he dragged back Norris as he broke forward, before the resultant free kick was wasted. Schneiderlin’s game finished minutes later as he was injured after challenging Varney, resulting in Jack Cork coming off the bench to partner Hammond.

A flurry of early chances came and went for both sides. Jos Hooiveld was unlucky not to get on the end of an inswinging free kick from Lallana, followed bu left back Danny Fox rampaging forward for Saints before unleashing a 30 yard dipping strike which Ashdown in the Pompey goal did superbly to touch over. Kelvin Etuhu tested his namesake Davis with a drive from the edge of the box which was well tipped round the post.

Things exploded into life in the 26th minute. Pompey centre half Rocha was lucky to avoid being sent off after showing his frustration at conceding a corner by blasting the ball from close range into the Saints fans, before petulantly slapping Lallana when confronted.

His frustration proved correct as Lambert set up Sharp to fire home following a poor clearance.

Celebrations were soon cut short though as Chris Maguire, on loan from Derby, cut inside from the left flank and gave Davis no chance as he rifled a superb shot right into the top corner for the  equaliser and a challenger for goal of the season.

Saints could have hit back immediately, with three good chances going begging before the half time whistle was blown. A powerful Lambert free kick and a Guly drive from a tight angle brought good saves from Ashdown while Lallana pinged a left footed volley just wide of the far post.

Within minutes of the restart Maguire could and should have put Pompey in front after the ball was pulled back to him inside the box, but he somehow contrived to shank the ball wide with the goal gaping.

It was then Southampton’s turn to apply the pressure, as Ashdown did well to kep the scores level. A cracking volley from Lallana on the edge of the box was well turned round the post, before Fonte’s flicked header drew a superb reflex save.

The game seemed to be petering out, with Pompey appearing to be happy with a point and the final ball lacking for Saints.

This all changed with the late intervention of Sharp, who grabbed his second goal as he stole in to poke home Lallana’s corner after in was flicked on by a Pompey head.

Controversy ensued however as the linesman flagged for offside and players and fans alike watched on nervously as he consulted with the referee before the goal was given and the celebrations could continue and fans spilled onto the pitch with delight.

However once again Southampton failed to hold the lead. Deep into stoppage time a long ball forward dropped to an unmarked Norris on the edge of the box, who hit a sweet first time volley into the bottom left corner.

Saints return to the top of the table, albeit it level on points with Reading, which adds importance to the enormous game on Friday vs the Royals at St Mary’s in a game likely to have a significant impact on the destination of the Championship title. Portsmouth remain 6 points from safety and will surely struggle to avoid the drop to the third tier.

Saints: Davis, Richardson, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, Guly (De Ridder 60), Hammond, Schneiderlin (Cork 6), Lallana, Sharp (Harding 90), Lambert. Subs (not used): Barnard, Martin.

Portsmouth: Ashdown, Ward, Rocha, Pearce, Rekik, Etuhu (Kitson 69), Halford, Allan, Norris, Maguire, Varney. Subs (not used): Futacs, Harris, Scapuzzi, Magri.

Attendance: 31, 743 (including 3,034 away)

Portsmouth: 2 Southampton: 2