Wards toasts all-time high

Joel Ward. Picture: Oliver Zee
Joel Ward. Picture: Oliver Zee
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Joel Ward toasted the greatest moment of his football career following his Pompey rescue act.

The Emsworth youngster headed home in the 84th minute to clinch a dramatic point in yesterday’s south coast derby.

Southampton looked set for a 1-0 triumph at Fratton Park following Rickie Lambert’s 63rd-minute opener.

But six minutes from time, Ward rose above Guly do Prado at the far post to claim an equaliser.

For the only locally-born player in Pompey’s squad, it was a particularly sweet moment.

It was Ward’s 71st appearance for his home-town club and his fifth goal.

But scoring against fierce rivals Southampton ranks as his most memorable feat yet for the Blues.

He said: ‘For me it wasn’t the purest of goals.

‘But it’s one of the best senior goals I have ever had in probably the biggest game I’ve ever played.

‘Definitely that was the best moment of my career so far – one I will always remember.

‘Thorney (George Thorne) rose well and put it back into a dangerous area and luckily for me I was in the right place.

‘Obviously, as a local lad, to score against our big rivals was fantastic, especially at the Fratton end.

‘To be honest, it was a weird feeling.

‘Growing up around these parts I know the way the club is and know about the rivalry between the two clubs.

‘My brother, my dad, my sister’s fiance and some close friends were at Fratton too, so there were a few people I knew around the ground.

‘They sat at the top of the south stand so I made my way straight over there when I scored.

‘It was tough but we did well, stuck in there and came away with the point, which was brilliant.’

Ward was a schoolboy footballer sat in the stands for the last south coast derby at Fratton in April 2005.

On that occasion, Lomana Lualua was the hero in a 4-1 demolition.

Ward was also present for the visit of AC Milan in November 2008.

And he reckons yesterday’s atmosphere was right up with those memorable Fratton occasions.

He added: ‘After the goal went in I was running down the side of the pitch and could see everyone was so electric.

‘Before the match the atmosphere was unbelievable.

‘I haven’t experienced anything like that on the pitch before.

‘It was probably similar to AC Milan. It was awesome.

‘I was also here for the 2005 derby game.

“I was sat in D section in upper south stand.

‘This time you could feel the atmosphere before the game and at half-time.

‘It was testament to our fans.’