Ward makes a point

Michael Eisner. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Joel Ward’s late equaliser ensured that honours were even in the south coast derby clash at Fratton Park.

The Emsworth-born midfielder struck with a close-range header with just six minutes remaining of a fierce contest after Southampton’s top goalscorer Rickie Lambert had put the visitors ahead just beyond the hour mark.

With so much at stake, a cagey opening to the game was almost inevitable but Southampton striker Guly do Prado had a sight of goal as early as the eighth minute when he poked wide when well placed at a corner.

Pompey, meanwhile, took time to settle into the game with Liam Lawrence struggling to shake off the rust after he was recalled after a month-long absence.

And with Dave Kitson left occasionally isolated up front, it took time for the Blues to start threatening as an attacking force.

As the half wore on, Southampton’s Adam Lallana looked the biggest danger on the pitch with a couple of excellent runs and crosses but Stephen Henderson had precious little to do, other than a Rickie Lambert free-kick, which he dealt with comfortably.

At the other end, Kelvin Davis was worried by a David Norris strike which just grazed the outside of the post, while Greg Halford’s free-kick from distance was a yard off target in an otherwise tight first half.

But it was the visitors who drew first blood just beyond the hour mark as Lambert pounced from close range to break the deadlock.

The top goalscorer in the Championship out-jumped Jason Pearce at the far post to latch on to Danny Fox’s free-kick and gave Henderson no chance from six yards.

While Blues boss Michael Appleton threw Erik Huseklepp and Marko Futacs into the action, there appeared to be little way back into the contest with Southampton looking the more dangerous every time they went forward.

But with just six minutes remaining, Ward bravely went in to head home the equaliser as Norris’ corner was headed back across goal by George Thorne as Fratton Park erupted with relief.

It was the only real effort on target that Pompey had created but was enough to earn them a share of the spoils.