Sunday, 8 April 2012

Derby Stoppage Time Drama As Saints Return To The Top

Southampton returned to the top of the Championship despite a late equaliser from Portsmouth at St. Mary’s. Billy Sharp put the Saints in front before Chris Maguire’s thunder strike levelled for Pompey before half-time. Sharp headed in from Adam Lallana's corner on  89 minutes before David Norris' stunning volley rescued a point in dramatic fashion. Southampton are now top only on goal difference to Reading while Portsmouth remain in the relegation zone, six points from safety. 

The teams enter the pitch at St. Mary's
The 215th South Coast Derby got off to a feisty start with challenges flying in at all angles with both sides needing the three points for different reasons. Morgan Schneiderlin clattered into David Norris with just a minute on the clock and was immediately booked by referee Neil Swarbrick. The resulting free-kick from loanee Chris Maguire went well over the crossbar. Schneiderlin was involved in the action once again after a challenge with Luke Varney. Unfortunately for the French under-21 international, he came out worse out of the challenges and was replaced moments later by Jack Cork. The Saints had their first effort of the match on 12 minutes, when Adam Lallana's free-kick from the left hand side was dangerously whipped in with Pompey 'keeper Jamie Ashdown was forced to make the save and grab onto the ball with Jos Hooiveld approaching towards him. Southampton were looking lively however it was the visitors who could have took the lead a few minutes later when Kelvin Etuhu's shot was comfortably saved by Kelvin Davis. The Saints had a couple of long-range effort from Danny Fox and Guly Do Prado respectively however they were both unsuccessful as their efforts went over the bar. Most of the football was played in the middle of the park with both teams fighting to dispossess the ball from their respective opponents. Ricardo Rocha was the next Portsmouth player to be cautioned as a clash with José Fonte and kicked the ball against a Southampton fan which the Saints faithful were not at all pleased about. 

GOAL POACHER: Billy Sharp pounces to put Saints 1-0 up

After some sustainable pressure, the Saints finally took the lead after 27 minutes when Lallana delivered an inswinging corner which was initially cleared by Pompey's Joel Ward into the air, Lambert headed it back into the danger zone and there was Billy Sharp to take a touch and score past a diving Ashdown to his bottom right. The Saints fans were cheering with joy as Sharp made up for his penalty miss at Blackpool last weekend. The Yorkshireman could of made it 2-0 shortly after however his volley from outside the box went just wide. The home side looked comfortable but from out of the blue on 36 minutes Kelvin Euthu held the ball up on the right hand side to lay it for Chris Maguire who struck a thunderbolt from the angle of the box leaving Kelvin Davis with no chance. Southampton welcomed back their talisman Rickie Lambert for the match and his free-kick on 41 minutes was punched into the air by Ashdown and cleared away for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Danny Fox's corner was headed away by Pompey defender Joel Ward and Lallana unleashed a terrific left-footed volley which narrowly went wide of the far post. The Saints were keen to head into half-time with a 2-1 advantage when Lambert played through Guly Do Prado whose narrow-angled strike in the box was palmed away by Ashdown in the Portsmouth goal. The final action of the half saw Danny Fox whipping in another of his dangerous corners where Dutch centre-back Jos Hooiveld met the ball with his head however he couldn't direct the ball on target. 

The second half was set up to be a continuation from the first half and it was Portsmouth who should've taken the lead early on when Luke Varney ran into the penalty area, holding of any threat from Saints right-back Frazer Richardson, and laid the ball for McGuire whose side-footed effort went horribly wide of Kelvin Davis' left post. The hosts had a couple of opportunities to re-take the lead on 57 minutes as Adam Lallana's right-footed volley from outside the area produced a very good two-handed save out of Jamie Ashdown for a corner. Lallana took the resulting corner from the Northam/Itchen corner and José Fonte rose highest to head it towards goal which was superbly tipped over the bar by Ashdown for Southampton's third consecutive corner in a couple of minutes. Portsmouth began to frustrate their Hampshire neighbours with the amount of possession they had however they couldn't produce in the final third. Into the last ten minutes of the match, Southampton were awarded a free-kick just into the Portsmouth half which  Fox launched the ball for Lambert at the far post to head back for Fonte who blasted his volley high up into the Chapel Stand. 

Fonte was involved in the hosts' next chance as he charged towards the penalty area who played a through pass to Lallana into the box who tried to go round goalkeeper Ashdown and fell down really late as the ball rolled out for a goal kick. Southampton kept on piling on the Portsmouth defence when substitute Steve De Ridder charged down the right and crossed to find Ricardo Rocha who sliced his clearance over the bar for a Saints corner. Adam Lallana took the resulting the corner which was flicked on by De Ridder and Luke Varney at the near post who found Billy Sharp to tap into an empty net for what looked like a late winner for Southampton however the decision was on standby as the linesman raised his flag for a possible offside on the Saints striker. After a confrontation with his linesman, referee Swarbrick awarded the goal to send St. Mary's into raptures of what looked like another precious three points for the Saints. 

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Billy Sharp taps into an empty net to score his and Saints' second goal
The St. Mary's faithful were keen to support their team get over the finish line with the referee adding an additional four minutes of stoppage time. As the whistles from the Saints fans continued, Portsmouth launched one last attack with Ricardo Rocha lifting the ball towards the penalty area with Rekik rising above Fonte to win the header in the area for David Norris, in plenty of space, to strike an outstanding first time volley with his left foot from 20 yards which sailed past Kelvin Davis into the right hand corner of the goal. A dramatic finish to what was a pulsating match where the points were shared in El Clasicoast Part II. 

SHOCK AT THE DEATH: David Norris strikes the ball as his volley rescues a point for Pompey


  1. Awesome for the Saints to be sat at the top of the table! Shame they couldn't cling on to secure three points but considering their position, that's almost irrelevant. Hope to be cheering our opposing teams at Anfield next season ;)

  2. Great Report mate good luck in the Premier League Next Season.