Southampton 2-2 Portsmouth
7th April 2012 - 1pm
It's the one game that everyone looks forward to when the fixtures are announced at the start of the season, but it would have taken a stunning bout of pessimism to predict the circumstances for this massive derby.
Pompey made two changes going into the match, with George Thorne returning to West Brom after an ankle injury ruled him out for the season, and Ben Haim also making way. In came Kelvin Etuhu and Ricardo Rocha, with Ward moving to right back and Halford playing in a more advanced role. As expected, Rickie Lambert started for Southampton.
The game started as ferociously as expected, with a booking for each side in the first few minutes, and with Morgan Schneiderlin limping off soon after. The first real chance of the game fell to Etuhu, who stung the palms of Kelvin Davis from the edge of the box.
Despite not dominating as much as they expected, it was the home side that took the lead on 27 minutes, after a poor clearance from Varney fell kindly to Lambert who poked through to Billy Sharp to fire past Ashdown.
Southampton's lead lasted for less than 10 minutes however, when from the corner of the penalty box Chris Maguire unleashed an absolute pearler of right footed shot past Davis at his near post, kissing the crossbar on the way in. It was the young Scot's third goal since joining from Derby, and one for the scrap book.
The sides went in a one apiece at half time, but that may have been different had it not been for some fine stops from Jamie Ashdown, keeping out a rasping free-kick from Lambert and getting down well to stop Guly Do Prado.
The hosts continued their spell of pressure into the second half, and created several more opportunities, but once again Jamie Ashdown was on hand to pull off some world class saves, most notably from a sweetly struck volley from the dangerous Adam Lallana, and acrobatically tipping Jose Fonte's header over the bar from the resulting corner.
Pompey had survived the onslaught without conceding and soon set about mounting their own attacks, with Scott Allan getting stuck in all over the pitch, Maguire chasing everything and Varney looking a nuisance when cutting inside.
It was a powerful surge from Luke Varney that had the Pompey fans behind the Southampton goal on their feet, as he seemed to be hauled to the floor after a clumsy tackle by Fonte, but referee Neil Swarbrick waved away any appeals and awarded just a corner.
As the game entered its closing stages it looked like either team could snatch a late winner, and in the 89th minute Southampton thought they had. After a series of chances Lallana swung in a dangerous corner which was flicked into the path of Billy Sharp who tucked the ball home from close range. The celebrations were stalled slightly after the linesman had flagged for offside, but the referee correctly overruled him after noting the ball flicked off a Pompey defender on its way through.
Sharp received a standing ovation as he was taken off, which even extended to hugs and congratulations from the players and staff on the bench like he had just won them promotion. But the drama wasn't quite over, not by a long way.
As Pompey poured forward in the dying seconds, Rocha played a long hopeful ball forward towards Dave Kitson, the ball was knocked down to David Norris on the edge of the box who hit one of the sweetest volleys of his life, steering the ball past Davis to send the Pompey fans into raptures.
As the final whistle there was only one side of the ground celebrating, with the late point feeling like 3 and Southampton players a fantastic sight for blue eyes. There will be one noisy bubble travelling down the M27 this evening!
As far as survival goes, this unexpected point doesn't change too much, we still need at least 3 wins from our last 5 games, but hopefully we can use the momentum of this late goal to propel ourselves into Tuesday's game against Millwall.
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