Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The South Coast derby

Joel Gets His ReWard
Southampton were denied bragging rights as Joel Ward equalised for Pompey in the final few minutes at Fratton Park.

After a long, tense build up, the South Coast derby was upon us. The television cameras were set up at Fratton Park and the blue shirts started to arrive into the 20,000 seater stadium. As the tribe of coaches full of Saints fans made the 17 mile trip along the M27, pubs around each town filled up with anxious supporters. The police seemed to have the supporters' safety completely under control, the travelling Southerners arrived at Fratton Park via coach and were escorted straight into the Milton End. The atmosphere soon arrived too, both sets of fans singing towards each other in order to be heard over the commentary on BBC1.

Nigel Adkins was unable to select the inform Richard Chaplow due to an injury he picked up last week, although a boost for the travellers was Kelvin Davis being available after missing last weeks tie with Blackpool.
Michael Appleton named an unchanged starting eleven who beat Burnley in injury time last weekend.

As this fixture is relatively rare, both sides seemed slightly cagey in the opening sequence and didn't create any clear chances on goal. Saints' top scorer, Rickie Lambert, headed Dean Hammond's cross harmlessly over the bar in the fifteen minute mark, as shortly after, Kelvin Davis was required to make a comfortable save from Joel Ward's effort.

Saints started the game with almost double the points of Portsmouth in the league this season, but there wasn't much between the two Hampshire teams in the early stages.

David Kitson was receiving the ball from his team-mates, but failed to create any chances in the first half. Jack Cork appeared to trip the bright-haired striker and was therefore cautioned by referee, Mark Halsey.

Lambert's second attempt on goal was rather weak and didn't trouble Stephen Henderson, who was making his twelfth appearance for Portsmouth, in comparison to Davis at the other end, who was making his two-hundred-and-thirtieth appearance for Saints.
The league leaders have been struggling on the road this season, and their away form was showing in the first half as they failed to put the ball past Henderson. However neither team were composing clear-cut opportunities.

The first half drew to a close, the first forty-five were not as exciting as many would have expected in this bitterly fierce South Coast derby. Both teams were very evenly matched and clearly neither team wanted to make an error at the back with so much at stake.

The second half was under-way and the visitors had the best chance of the game on the fifty-second minute, Guly Do Prado crossed in the ball from the right as Lambert volleys it goal wards, all venom was taken out from the volley but Schneiderlin almost pounced on the ball before Henderson gathered.

As the hour mark approached, the game became more end-to-end, Southampton still edged possession and chances from Lallana and Guly gave the away side the edge. Pompey's attacks looked promising until the ball reached their final third, Kitson struggled to break through Fonte and Hooiveld.

The Saints piled on more pressure, this time Danny Fox's decent delivery was met by the head of Adam Lallana, who couldn't quite get the angle right for the break-through.
Moments later, Danny Fox again with a fantastic free-kick, which was met by the head of none other but Rickie Lambert, showing immense strength, the talisman put the Saints in front on the hour mark.

Half way through the second half, Southampton were keen to slow the game right down, taking time to bring the ball back into play. The only real chance soon after the goal was when Lallana found space on a slight counter attack, although he dwelled on the ball as the home side got players back in numbers. However, the ball was only cleared to Saints' skipper, Dean Hammond, who shot from distance but Henderson had no troubles keeping the ball out of the net.

Six minutes from time, Pompey make the most of a corner which was nodded back across goal and met by the diving header of Joel Ward. As expected, the home fans suddenly raised the noise levels in an attempt to win the game, but the table-toppers showed no push-overs and kept the game level.

As time was running out, Saints earned a corner in an attempt to snatch a dramatic late winner, but Fonte's header down was smashed clear by Kitson.
Mark Halsey blew for the final whistle which meant the spoils were shared on the South coast.

Player Ratings
Kelvin Davis 8 - Did well to come straight back into the team and could have kept a clean sheet if it wasn't for some appalling marking from the corner.
Frazer Richardson 8 - Having a great season, looks dangerous going forward and defends well when required.
Jose Fonte 7 - Gave away some needless fouls but was solid throughout, kept Kitson quiet.
Jos Hooiveld 8 - Won vital headers, looked strong, kept Kitson quiet.
Danny Fox 8 - Great assist for the goal, played really well defensively, shouldn't have come off.
Morgan Schniederlin 7 - Had a couple of chances, still adapting to the new role.
Dean Hammond 7 - Controlled the midfield well, had a good eye for goal for a change.
Adam Lallana 8 - Showed why he is so valuable to Saints, some brilliant skills on the left and skipped past Halford like he wasn't there numerous times.
Guly 6 - Got in the right positions, couldn't convert the chances. Obviously should have been there for the goal we conceded.

Mark Halsey 7 - Controlled the game well, wasn't a major decision to deal with.

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