Changing of the Guard
• Ward 84
• Lambert 63
Sunday, 18th December 2011
Match Report :
Strangely, I feel both gutted and proud after that game. It was a seminal game for the two Hampshire teams.
After a largely forgettable first half, Saints took control in the second half and Rickie Lambert duly popped up with a wonderful glancing header from a pin-point Danny Fox pass to score. There were several subsequent chances to make the game safe, but in truth, one goal should have been enough, as Pompey were really not that good. Six minutes from the end Pompey managed to fashion an equaliser out of nothing and from the players and Pompey fans reactions, you would have thought that they had won the FACup!
To start with there was relief for Saints fans to see that Kelvin Davis was back in goal and that the rumours that Fonte was injured proved wide of the mark. Balanced against this was the realisation that Chaplow wasn't considered ready for a place on the bench following his recovery from injury. Boxing Day perhaps?
To be honest, Pompey had the only two really decent chances of the first half, but thankfully they were spurned by first Norris and then Halford. Saints had their chances, with Guly mis-hitting a shot and then Rickie Lambert heading over.
The majority of the game was being played in the mid-field though. As the commentators on the live BBC coverage observed, Pompey were set up to play like the away side. The extent of their ambition seemed to be to stop Saints playing their normal passing game. The result was not much of a game for the neutral. For the rest of us, it was intriguing wondering how Saints were going to break through and score.
After the break Saints resumed their possession game and looked more businesslike. Saints were fashioning more openings and Lambert directed a header straight at Henderson in the Pompey goal. This was a preamble for what arrived a few minutes later, when Fox sent over the cross, which Rickie glanced into the top corner. The Saints travelling fans were right behind the Pompey goal and the slow motion replay showed just what that goal meant to the fans, as they saw the ball nestling in the back of the net and almost exploded with joy.
There then followed a period where Saints class shone through. Pompey were held at arm's length and the expected reply from the Pompey team did not materialise. The Pompey fans fell silent. Not only that, but Saints were fashioning more chances, unfortunately they came to regret not taking any of these.
In a last desperate throw of the dice, Pompey went route one and a clearance was flicked on. It wasn't dealt with properly and went for a corner. from the corner Ward and Del Prado went for the ball and it ended up in the back of the Saints net.
Still chances fell to Saints, but time just ran out.
So, this most eagerly anticipated game finished 1-1, but there is a large gulf in quality between the two sides. The last time Saints played at Fratton Park, it ended in humiliation and a spiral down to the First Division. This time the better team was playing in red and white stripes. This time it was Saints turn to look forward and up.
The changing of the guard on the South Coast.
Attendance : 19,879
16 Mattock (yellow card)
07 Lawrence (Huseklepp 64)
08 Mullins (Futacs 78)
01 Ashdown, 04 Mokoena, 10 Huseklepp, 09 Futacs, 25 Mwaruwari
13 Fox (Harding 77)
08 Cork (yellow card)
21 Bialkowski, 03 Harding, 16 Martin, 24 Holmes, 33 De Ridder