Portsmouth's injury list just got a little longer. The latest addition? Wounded pride. A second sapping defeat in three weeks against their south-coast rivals confirmed where supremacy lies in these parts. If there was any doubt just glance at the Premiership table. The points moved Southampton flatteringly into the Champions' League placings and confirmed Portsmouth in the bottom three. Worlds apart along the M27.
Stripped of two-thirds of a team through injury - and a few more because of suspension - Harry Redknapp's familiar managerial refrain of being "down to the bare bones" did not deserve any mockery this time round. He was spot on. "What can I do?" he asked, despairingly.
The first League meeting between these keenly competitive protagonists for 15 years, just after their Carling Cup tie, was settled by players who had not scored - or so it appeared - for almost as long.
Jason Dodd's first goal since October 2000 (aided by Sebastian Schemmel) and a second, brilliantly conceived and struck by Marian Pahars, his first for 16 months, were memorable for more than the wait. A third, in added time, was from a more familiar source: James Beattie's flying header from another Dodd cross, a patiently crafted goal, was the last act of a game which also provided shot-shy Southampton with their biggest win of the season.
However, it was the first which defined matters. Until then Portsmouth had stuck doggedly to their task with a slip by the lumbering Hayden Foxe providing the only sight of goal, although Brett Ormerod's eventual header was blocked. The goal came direct from Dodd's corner - after he had earned it through another dangerous, curling free-kick which was hacked over - and was probably put into his own net by the hapless Schemmel.
So Southampton's longest-serving player may have to wait a little longer - as will his "mum and nan" who, according to Dodd, had a "couple of quid" on him to score at 66-1. His manager, Gordon Strachan, felt the goal belonged to the player who he has charged with taking set-pieces in the last few weeks. "Come on, it's Christmas for Christ's sake," he said afterwards. "Christmas?" Redknapp asked. "There's no Christmas."
It was reminiscent of a goal scored by Macedonia against England on this ground last season and was similarly freaky for that. This time the ball struck the post, then Schemmel stationed on the line, then the bar and then in. It was fair reward for Dodd who delivered corners and free-kicks of wicked intent all game - aided by Portsmouth's deep and desperate defending and a panicky, ponderous goalkeeping display by Harald Wapenaar, who was only in because of Pavel Srnicek's howlers last week against Everton. "Terrible" was the only publishable adjective used by Redknapp.
It is becoming the story of Portsmouth's season. The self-inflicted wounds are running deep now and may prove fatal. Indeed Redknapp only included Schemmel, who had a stinker, because of the poor form of Boris Zivkovic. The Frenchman was withdrawn after 55 minutes with Zivkovic, his replacement, then culpable as Pahars jinked inside him to score the second, a controlled shot from 20 yards.
By then Redknapp had abandoned the defensive formation designed for a draw in the blustery conditions. He threw on a third striker, Yakubu Ayegbeni, who had been a profligate ever-present until yesterday. The Nigerian proceeded simply to get in the way of Jason Roberts, who had struggled manfully up front.
Not that he, or any of his team-mates, looked like scoring against one of the Premiership's meanest, best-organised and committed defences for whom Claus Lundekvam - who had been carried off last weekend - was a surprise inclusion. With just one goal in six games, the nearest Portsmouth came was a late shot by the hard-working Alexei Smertin, which was well fielded by Antti Niemi, and an earlier effort by Richard Hughes - a Premiership debutant - which lacked conviction.
Strachan was understandably delighted with a third successive League victory and a controlled performance, with David Prutton again confirming his recent promise in central midfield. "It's like manna from heaven for a middle-of-the-League club," he said.
It is a status that, on current form, may appear a little too modest although Strachan knows his team, reverting to a more rudimentary approach, did not play well. Redknapp, however, can only dream of such relative riches.
Goals: Schemmel og (34) 1-0; Pahars (67) 2-0; Beattie (90) 3-0.
Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi 6; Dodd 8, Lundekvam 6, M Svensson 6, Higginbotham 6; Telfer 5, Marsden 5 (Baird, 90), Prutton 7, Pahars 6 (McCann, 80); Beattie 6, Ormerod 5 (Phillips, 80). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), A Svensson.
Portsmouth (3-5-2): Wapenaar 3; Primus 4, Foxe 3, Stefanovic 5; Schemmel 3 (Zivkovic 4, 55), Sherwood 5, Smertin 7, Hughes 3 (Yakubu 4, 60), Taylor 6; Sheringham 5, Roberts 6. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Burton, Robinson.
Referee: J Winter 4 (Stockton-on-Tees).
Bookings: Portsmouth: Schemmel, Sherwood, Foxe.
Man of the match: Dodd
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