Spot of controversy as Saints march on

Southampton 2 - Portsmouth 1
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The Independent Online

Pre-match publicity for the most hyped FA Cup tie of the fourth round had featured a richly colourful cast of warring chairmen, traitorous coaches, players with something to prove and supporters threatening all manner of mayhem. In the event, however, the most important figure inside St Mary's turned out to be the hitherto unknown Mr Mike Tingey, aka The Man With The Yellow Flag.

Pre-match publicity for the most hyped FA Cup tie of the fourth round had featured a richly colourful cast of warring chairmen, traitorous coaches, players with something to prove and supporters threatening all manner of mayhem. In the event, however, the most important figure inside St Mary's turned out to be the hitherto unknown Mr Mike Tingey, aka The Man With The Yellow Flag.

He it was who decided, bravely if controversially, that in the second minute of added time, Portsmouth's left-back, Matthew Taylor, had intercepted David Prutton's cross with his arm. The unsighted referee, Steve Bennett, accepted his assistant's judgement and awarded the penalty, which Peter Crouch tucked away with admirable coolness to win the game.

That decisive moment was the climax to a manic second half in total contrast to the first anti-climactic 45 minutes. As it increased steadily in tempo and incident, Southampton took the lead but were pegged back by a penalty within three minutes. Then Portsmouth lost Diomansy Kamara for collecting two of the day's nine yellow cards and wasted two glorious chances to settle things. Finally, to the dismay of their 5,000 followers, and the relief of Harry Redknapp and the Hampshire constabulary, a replay was avoided, thanks to Mr Tingey's dramatic intervention.

The outcome was harsh on the visitors, who will have been much the more satisfied with their first-half performance before being pushed back as Southampton regained some of the confidence imbued by the previous Saturday's victory over Liver-pool. Jamie Redknapp, so influential on that occasion, was a missing link this time, his father deciding he should be held back for the important Premiership fixtures against Birmingham and Everton in the next eight days.

In his absence, the central midfield men failed to match Portsmouth's more fluid trio. This despite the fact that Steve Stone was injured, while Nigel Quashie has followed Redknapp along the coast - he was ineligible yesterday - and Amdy Faye, to the equal dismay of the Portsmouth supporters, has left for Newcastle. Kamara offered better support to the one striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, than any Southampton player did to his opposite number, Crouch, who suffered from Kevin Phillips's absence and the fact that neither of his team's wide-midfield players are natural wingers.

The surprise in the visiting line-up was the unmissable figure of Konstantinos Chalkias, a 6ft 5in goalkeeper from Panathinaikos, possibly included on the basis that anyone who has experienced derby games in Athens would find tribal loyalties in Hampshire small beer. He was allowed to settle in without a save to make for 44 minutes, but still managed to look nervous dealing with crosses, corners and the less familiar tactic of Rory Delap's long throws.

Southampton, having launched their first long ball at Crouch's even taller frame seven seconds after the start, took almost until half-time to test Chalkias with a shot on target, Paul Telfer hitting one from 35 yards that the keeper calmly parried, then caught. The only excitement for the home fans before that was Anders Svensson's dart into the penalty areabefore delaying his shot and being crowded out.

Portsmouth began the second half well, before the home side took control and the lead. As Crouch was tackled by Dejan Stefanovic, the ball rolled to Svensson, who set up Matt Oakley for a fulminating drive into the top corner of the net. There was not even time for the home crowd to direct any further insults in the direction of their visitors before the latter were claiming an equaliser. Claus Lundekvam foolishly put an arm across Kamara, who went down as if shot. His reward was a penalty kick that Yakubu rolled in, before Kamara and Telfer were booked for their altercation about the award.

That card would prove costly 15 minutes later, when Kamara deliberately handled the ball as he slipped in midfield and was sent off. In the meantime, Southampton had reasserted themselves, Taylor having to clear off the line from Crouch and Danny Higginbotham having a goal disallowed, after the keeper had been stranded in both cases. Portsmouth replaced a tiring Yakubu with Ricardo Fuller and ought to have reaped the benefit. In the last five minutes he made a clear chance for Patrick Berger, whose tame shot was deflected for a corner, then shot wildly high.

There was sufficient reason to believe they had done enough for a second game. Midway through the allotted four minutes of stoppage time, however, Crouch found Prutton and his cross struck Taylor high on his outstretched arm. Deliberate? Tingey, well positioned on that side of the pitch, decided that was the case. Bennett, recently fooled by El Hadji Diouf's dive at Blackburn, felt obliged to consult his assistant and backed him up. Crouch, third-choice penalty-taker at best after Phillips and Redknapp, had the nerve to step forward and kept it admirably to condemn his former club to a fifth successive defeat in their least favourite city.

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