Ward a light in the gloom for Pompey
Portsmouth 1 Southampton 1
In an age when big-name foreign imports are so often the heroes, it was refreshing this bitter South Coast derby clash catapulted a local boy into Pompey folklore.
Joel Ward, aged just 22, a product of the club's academy, is Portsmouth born and bred and the delight etched on his face after snatching a late equaliser emphasised just how important this game is to both sides. Rivalry between these two cities has a deep-rooted history dating back hundreds of years, long before any football had been kicked.
The storm clouds are once again gathering above Fratton, with the club's very existence far from certain after owners Convers Sports Initiatives went into administration last month. Yet Ward's effort lifted some of the gloom, albeit temporarily. His manager, Michael Appleton, said: "I'm delighted with him. It probably means more to him, being a local lad. People have been saying how important this game is; Joel can probably appreciate it more than the rest of the players can, and you could probably tell that from his celebration.
"I gave him some stick after because he was lording it up after the game, taking all the applause, and we were waiting for him in the dressing room for 10 minutes. He doesn't mind a bit of the limelight, but growing up as a Pompey fan he's probably dreamed of doing that for a while."
This fixture has a history of off-field violence and Southampton's 2,500 travelling fans' 20-mile journey along the coast was organised with military precision in the hope of averting clashes between supporters.
While the pre-match build-up simmered with tension, the action on the pitch was fairly tepid, but the deadlock was broken just past the hour. Predictably, given the lack of space, it came from a set piece.
Daniel Fox's free kick 10 yards inside Pompey territory was met by the head of Rickie Lambert. The faintest of touches took the ball past keeper Stephen Henderson for the prolific striker's 15th league goal of the campaign.
Henderson saved smartly to deny Guly do Prado, but Pompey were back on level terms just six minutes from time. David Norris's corner was nodded back across the six-yard box by George Thorne and Ward was quickest to react, heading in from close range to earn his side a share of the spoils.
Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, was disappointed with his side's failure to clinch all three points, but he heads into the Christmas period at the summit of the Championship.
He said: "It wasn't a classic. There was no flow to the game. Pompey are a big side and with six or seven minutes to go you make sure you see the game out, but unfortunately I'm looking for us to defend a set play.
"But we are one point clear at the top of the Championship. If we had been in the top 10 at the turn of the year we would have been happy with that.
"From then on you have a chance to get promoted. It shows we have good players, we play the right way and we score a lot of goals. Our desire is to pick up more clean sheets and results away from home."
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