Stunning Strikes Salvage Point At St. Mary's
By Jim Bonner
Updated Saturday, 7th April 2012
Southampton 2 Portsmouth 2
David Norris etched himself into Portsmouth folklore after his last-gasp volley silenced St. Mary's and sent Pompey fans into madness.
Chris Maguire's strike to level the score in the first half was also something special but there was extreme joy and relief at the final whistle after it looked like Billy Sharp had broken our hearts late on.
Having rode into Southampton inside the "bubble" (more on that experience in another article), you wouldn't have found many fans expecting a result as the atmosphere inside the stadium built up before kick off.
The first half was a scrappy affair in true derby game fashion and didn't take long for the first booking of the day as Morgan Schneiderlin received a yellow card for a rash challenge on Norris.
Maguire sent the resulting free kick sailing over the bar as Schneiderlin was then injured in one of many hard challenges during the game and was replaced by Jack Cork.
Kelvin Etuhu then had a strike at goal but Kelvin Davis parried the ball away to Norris who didn't have enough time for a follow up effort. Pompey fans couldn't have been much happier with the start their team had made to the game.
But the Saints had to up their game eventually and they did, with their set-pieces in particular causing the Portsmouth defence some problems.
Those problems grew massively when a corner wasn't properly cleared and the ball fell to Sharp who made no mistake in punishing Pompey from close range.
Sharp may have had another but his shot was straight at Ashdown. However, at the other end of the pitch there was absolutely nothing his opposite number could do about the equaliser.
Maguire and Etuhu combined down the left and the Scot audaciously rifled the ball into the top corner of the net from the corner of the box, sending all Pompey fans ballistic in celebration!
Southampton wouldn't relent, though, and Ashdown did well to save Rickie Lambert's free kick whilst hearts were in mouths as Adam Lallana's shot fizzed narrowly wide.
Jos Hooiveld also should have scored with a header right before the break so it's safe to say that most Pompey fans were happy to go into half-time at 1-1.
The second half was a much better performance from our perspective but Maguire really should have given us the lead just minutes from the restart when Varney got to the byline and crossed for him, only for him to skew his shot wide.
Jamie Ashdown then produced two outstanding saves to keep the scores level.
He somehow managed to claw Lallana's volley away when it looked destined for the top corner and from the resulting corner he showed some great reflexes to palm alway Jose Fonte's header.
Pompey soon asserted themselves on the game and frustrated the home fans with some good possession play. If our players had shown a bit more confidence in the final third to get the ball in the box then there might have been more reward.
Instead, it looked like we would be leaving St. Mary's heartbroken as Sharp got on the end of a corner from close range in the 89th minute.
The assistant referee originally ruled the goal was offside but after consultation with Neil Swarbrick the decision was overturned. Whilst that stunned the visitors, it turned out to be the correct one as the ball came off the head of Luke Varney first before reaching Sharp.
Disheartened Pompey fans in the away end felt dejected as the Scummers began the promotion songs and the taunts, but that all changed with one swing of Norris' left boot.
A long ball was headed square to the Pompey midfielder and he produced a sweet left foot volley in the 94th minute to spark some of the wildest celebrations I have ever seen at a football match!
The sheer relief and ecstasy experienced by our fans was in stark contrast to the shellshocked home supporters who fell silent when the final whistle blew to mark the end of a dramatic south coast derby.
Pompey fans were kept behind for around 20 minutes after the game before getting back on the buses to reflect on the match.
Did we deserve a draw? I think so. The defenders might have to buy Jamie Ashdown a few drinks for his superb saves but they did a great job in nullifying Rickie Lambert who barely had a sniff at goal.
And whilst Maguire and Norris may rightfully pick up the plaudits for their stunning strikes, I thought Scott Allan was the driving force in the midfield and outshone his Southampton counterparts.
But we shouldn't dwell on that for now. For me, the only thing that matters is that we have pulled a result out of the bag against Southampton and haven't been beaten by them in over seven years now.
And if that last-gasp equaliser prevents our neighbours from getting promoted this season, then that's even better.
Pompey Player Ratings
Jamie Ashdown: 9 - Two outstanding saves amongst others.
Karim Rekik: 7 - Looked the part, a decent outlet going forward.
Ricardo Rocha: 6 - Seemed a bit nervy.
Jason Pearce: 7 - Did a good job on Lambert.
Joel Ward: 6 - Solid enough at right back.
Greg Halford: 6 - Didn't see too much of him.
Scott Allan: 8 - Driving force in midfield, very impressive.
David Norris: 8 - Unforgettable goal.
Kelvin Etuhu: 7 - Bright at times, if only we could get ninety minutes out of him.
Chris Maguire: 8 - You won't ever see a better goal in a south coast derby. Also offered a high work rate.
Luke Varney: 6 - Could have made more use of his pace.
Dave Kitson (Etuhu 69): 5 - Didn't do anything helpful.
|07 Apr 2012|
|Team lineups: Southampton v Portsmouth 07 Apr 2012|
|06 Apr 2012|
|Southampton vs Portsmouth Preview|
|05 Apr 2012|
|The Opposition View: Southampton|
|No More Thorne In The Side|
|04 Apr 2012|
|Maguire Extends Loan Spell|
|01 Apr 2012|
|Pompey Fall in Clarets Collapse|
|31 Mar 2012|
|Team lineups: Portsmouth v Burnley 31 Mar 2012|