Coach ‘bubble’ is set for next clash

114424-7918 POMPEY SOUTHAMPTON (NEWS/SPORT) MRW 18/12/2011''// all pictures re: Pompey v Southampton at Fratton Park on Sunday 18th December 2011 as the massive Hampshire Police ' Operation Delphin ' rolled out across the day - MRW // ''One of several police cordons in place - this one was at the end of Vernon Avenue'''Picture: Malcolm Wells (114424-7918)
114424-7918 POMPEY SOUTHAMPTON (NEWS/SPORT) MRW 18/12/2011''// all pictures re: Pompey v Southampton at Fratton Park on Sunday 18th December 2011 as the massive Hampshire Police ' Operation Delphin ' rolled out across the day - MRW // ''One of several police cordons in place - this one was at the end of Vernon Avenue'''Picture: Malcolm Wells (114424-7918)
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POMPEY fans face having to travel in a coach ‘bubble’ convoy for the club’s return derby clash at Southampton.

Police say the tactic used to get Saints fans to Fratton Park for yesterday’s game was so successful that they plan to use it when the south coast rivals meet at St Mary’s Stadium in April.

Saints fans were bussed to Pompey on a 42-strong coach convoy surrounded by a heavy police escort in time for kick-off at Fratton Park.

It is the first time the tactic has been used for a football match in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Travelling on the coach ‘bubble’ was a condition of entry to the match and Saints fans were not handed their tickets until they arrived in Portsmouth.

Police put in place a rolling road block to ensure the coaches could be escorted quickly and safely and led them into Rodney Road, which was blocked off to the public and completely closed to traffic.

Officers then blocked off the coaches at both ends to minimise the chances of trouble flaring.

The slick operation went off without a hitch as both sets of fans arrived in time for the 1pm kick-off without crossing paths and no serious trouble was reported.

Five 8ft tall metal barriers manned by police were put up at key points around Fratton Park stopped fans from coming into contact with each other.

Police also shut Anson Road and Specks Lane, and closed Vernon Avenue and Alverstone Road to non-residents.

Officers took the drastic steps in a bid to minimise trouble due to a history of violence flaring on previous derby days.

Superintendent Rick Burrows led the Operation Delphin policing operation.

Speaking about the coach bubble, he said: ‘We will probably use it again in April for the Pompey return fixture.

‘We’re happy with it. The tactic did what it said on the tin – we have denied the opportunity for disorder.

‘We got a large number of Southampton fans here on time and safely, liaising with the fans and the club, we got all the Pompey fans to the ground on time and safely.

‘There was a nice atmosphere in the ground, an honourable result on the pitch and we got the Southampton fans back on the buses, back to Southampton, nice and quickly.

‘We’re pleased. The vast majority of the fans have conducted themselves well.’

He added: ‘In the interests of fairness we said at the very outset we would do it for both games.

‘The likelihood is we will use it for the return fixture.

‘We will tweak it slightly to make it as slick as possible and make sure the fans and the public aren’t too inconvenienced.’

About 250 police officers were drafted in for yesterday’s mammoth policing operation.

Hampshire Constabulary also called on mounted officers from Thames Valley and the force’s dog unit to help police the match.

Last night, just one person had been charged after being arrested outside the turnstiles at Fratton Park before the match.

Ian Mitchell, 26, of Alder Road, Southampton, was charged with possessing a firework while entering a sporting event.

He was bailed until later this month.

Another person was arrested on suspicion of possessing a flare but further details had last night not been released by police.

Superintendent Rick Burrows, praised both Pompey and Saints fans for their behaviour.

He said: ‘I would like to say a big thank you to the fans on behalf of the police.

‘We look forward to the return fixture.’

Supt Burrows added: ‘It’s nice to have a derby fixture that hasn’t had the levels of violence we have seen historically.’