18/12/2011: Portsmouth 1-1 Saints

Saints will have to wait a little bit longer to end their 27 year wait for a win at Fratton Park, after Pompey snatched a late draw. The visitors dominated for large spells, but were left to rue a number of missed opportunities. The first half was fairly scrappy, as both teams struggled against the windy conditions. Saints played well in patches, but Portsmouth probably enjoyed the better of the chances. Greg Halford saw his free kick fly narrowly past the post just before the break. Good football was difficult due to the wet surface, which caused a number of players to fall over. Saints were forced to hit it long more than usual, with Pompey limiting space in midfield. Much of our attacking play came down the flanks, with Adam Lallana looking particularly impressive. The wide man made Portsmouth's right sided players look stupid on more than one occasion, using his skill to work a number of openings.

Saints took the game to their bitter rivals in the second half, and dominated with a large chunk possession and some slick passing. For all the pressure, clear cut chances were still few and far between though. That was until the 66th minute when Rickie Lambert headed in Danny Fox's free kick. The home fans the fell completely silent as Saints supporters celebrated wildly in the Milton End. The famous Fratton Park atmosphere was completely missing for the next 20 minutes or so, as Saints fans let off smoke bombs and out-sang their rivals. The visitors continued to dominate, with Guly and Schneiderlin missing good opportunities to put the game out of sight. Saints were a constant threat on the counter, but often failed to find that killer final ball. They looked to be in complete control until the 83rd minute. Dan Harding played the ball out for a corner, despite having enough time and space to clear the ball up field. From the resulting set piece Joel Ward scrambled a header past Kelvin Davis to make it 1-1. Saints desperately pushed for a winner, but when Lambert fired a volley narrowly over in stoppage time all hope was lost.

A very disappointing final result. Saints were superior to their south coast rivals for much of the contest, and their tactical discipline and movement was first class. The players put in a huge amount of effort, and yet we still came away with just a point. One little defensive error cost us at the end. Pompey were there for the taking today, but in truth we should have wrapped the game up long before they equalised. We created some great openings, but with Guly and Lambert often drifting out wide, we had nobody to get on the end of some of the chances. We could have done with someone like Connolly or Barnard today, that 'fox in the box' type to finish things off. I'm not sure if Danny Fox had picked up a knock or not, but if he didn't I find the decision to replace him with Dan Harding very strange. Fox had looked very comfortable in defence, and showed no signs of struggling. Harding put the ball out for the corner which resulted in the Portsmouth goal, when he could have easily turned and cleared the ball to safety. That pass went completely against Nigel Adkins's football philosophy, and I'm almost certain Fox wouldn't have made the same mistake. Pompey were never likely to score from open play. Lone striker Dave Kitson was completely ineffective. David Norris looked skilful, but even he had trouble getting through an incredibly well organised Saints defence. There were plenty of positives to take from the game, and against any other team it would be considered a decent point. After all the massive build up however, Portsmouth still hold the bragging rights over us having secured a derby day victory more recently. We've got a great chance to settle to score in April at St Marys, but these games don't come along very often, and you have to wonder how long it will be before we get a better chance of beating them in their own backyard.

Attendance: 18,879.

Match Ratings:

Davis: 7. Enjoyed a good understanding with the defence, and looked pretty comfortable on the rare occasions he was tested.

Richardson: 8. Excellent work going forward, overlapping on the right

Fonte: 8. Rarely put a foot wrong. Excellent positioning and decision making

Hooiveld: 8. Won nearly every header and 50/50. Had the better of lone front man Dave Kitson all afternoon.

Fox: 8. Strong both defensively and going forward. Some good link up play with Lallana on the left hand side. Set piece delivery pretty decent as usual.

Schneiderlin: 7. Broke forward with good effect on a number of occasions, but maybe should have done better in front of goal.

Hammond: 8. Always looking to receive the ball, and usually did something useful with it when he got it. Defended well too with some great tackles.

Cork: 8. Sprayed the ball about very nicely, switched the play from right to left and left to right with ease.

Lallana: 8. Some great skill on show today. Made Pompey's right back look like an amateur

Lambert: 8. Another goal, and some great build up play when drifting out wide.

Guly: 5. Totally anonymous first half, but improved after the break. Won a number of free kicks with clever play and some decent movement. Will be disappointed with his role in the goal however.

Substitutes:

Harding: Needlessly gave away the corner that led to the goal