Frustration at Fratton
Pompey 1, Saints 1
Phase 1 of Operation Bubble 2011/12 duly got under way at just after 11 a.m. (from St. Mary’s anyway) on 18th December. This was, of course, to bus something in the region of 2,000 Saints fans into enemy territory – i.e. Portsmouth. The impression of it being akin to a military manoeuvre were helped by the sight of various well-wishers waving and cheering the convoy on its way… or at least that was the case until we left the M27. After that, the waves from the locals seemed to involve only one, or occasionally two, of their six fingers. The extent of the bubble around Nottarf Krap seemed to be the access road to an industrial estate, that dodgy back alley behind the visitors’ enclosure and the Milton End stand itself. You didn’t even have to exchange unpleasantries with any local gateman, with barcode readers providing automated access. A shame they haven’t similarly upgraded their plumbing.
The game itself must have been a disappointment for the BBC’s Sunday lunchtime audience – but since when has the South Coast Derby been any business of theirs, anyway? A fit again Kelvin Davis had little to do, but the same can be said for Stephen Henderson at the opposite end as well. Lallana looked most likely to provide some inspiration to break the deadlock as he appeared to be able to beat Ward at will, but ensuing crosses didn’t fall for Lambert or Do Prado, who seemed intimidated by the whole event. After the break, Davis and Henderson had to cope with performing in front of a seething mass of hatred, one of them ringing a bell, but Kelvin’s defence was giving him an easier ride than his opposite number. Eventually the BBC’s fears of a complete stalemate were removed when Lambert rose to head home Fox’s free kick and put Saints ahead after 63 minutes. Still quite a while to play, but while you couldn’t see Pompey posing much of a threat, a second goal was what our Expeditionary Force craved. It could have been provided by Do Prado, but by shaping himself to convert Schneiderlin’s through pass with his right foot, he allowed Henderson time to make the block. The game remained tight, but only Southampton were creating opportunities despite our charming hosts introducing the giant Futacs to add weight to their attack. But then a corner was tamely conceded, Pearce rose highest at the far post and Ward, a genuine Skate right down to his scales, overcame Do Prado’s challenge to head the equaliser. Messrs Shearer and Claridge, neither renown for their defensive qualities, seem to have piled all the blame onto Guly, which I think was a bit harsh – the ball just fell nastily into an area where he was uncertain about whether to attack it or remain guarding the post, and he who hesitates is lost. All of a sudden it was a game that could have turned disastrous, so maybe Saints’ efforts in the remaining few minutes were tempered by a bit of caution. But as well as missing an opportunity to claim bragging rights, this was two crucial points dropped.
So back onto the buses, which were still in one piece. It has to be said that aspect of the day went remarkably well, given the number of idiots who abound on both sides. That much can be demonstrated by the detonation of at least two second half flares at the Saints end, and a couple of (empty) spirit miniatures thrown at Henderson – that in particular is wrong for so many reasons, and maybe those responsible might wish to explain what they were hoping to achieve by their actions… although of course they won’t be bright enough to be able to read this. The novelty value of the transportation just about outweighed the inconvenience, but I don’t suppose this will prove to be the last time for it.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jos Hooiveld, but if only he had been able to head away that late corner…
13 Fox (Harding 77)