Police to swamp south-coast derby

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The Independent Online

Police are mounting one of their biggest football security operations in Hampshire for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie between Southampton and Portsmouth and have appealed to licensees in the St Mary's area to keep premises shut before and after the 12.30pm kick-off.

Police are mounting one of their biggest football security operations in Hampshire for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie between Southampton and Portsmouth and have appealed to licensees in the St Mary's area to keep premises shut before and after the 12.30pm kick-off.

The operation, headed by Chief Superintendent John Stickler, will involve at least 400 officers. The match at Southampton will see the meeting of two of football's fiercest rivals - a rivalry that has been fuelled by the recent move of the Southampton manager, Harry Redknapp, from Portsmouth.

However, the police are encouraged by their security record at Southampton. When the teams met in two matches there last season and again just a few weeks ago, there was no significant trouble. But last season, at Fratton Park, there were around 80 arrests and many ejections from the Portsmouth ground. Saints and Pompey have not met in an FA Cup tie since 1993, when Southampton won 3-0.

A police spokesman said: "About 15 per cent of the crowd will be away fans this time, which is more than normal, but we are confident we will have a successful day. We hope so."

Police have been monitoring events for weeks since the draw was made especially as Southampton have now bought Nigel Quashie from Portsmouth for £2.1m. Quashie is injured and cup-tied, but the Saints now also employ the former Pompey assistant manager, Jim Smith, and the coach, Kevin Bond.

The police spokesman said of the 12.30pm kick-off: "This suits us as there should be less likelihood of alcohol playing a large part in any trouble. There are many licensed premises around the St Mary's ground and although we can't force them to shut down we have advised them that it is a good idea and we are glad to say the vast majority have taken our advice."

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