Four goals were shared at St Mary’s in the fourth successive draw between Southampton and Stoke in the Premier League.
All of the strikes arrived in the first half, though Saints will perhaps look back on the game as a case of a missed opportunity as they twice took the lead against a Potters side who hold the worst away record in the top-flight.
It began well for the hosts as Rickie Lambert struck his eighth goal of the season with just six minutes on the watch – a stunning free-kick which flew into the top right corner which put Mauricio Pochettino’s side on their way to a dream start.
A surprise equaliser from Peter Odemwingie against the run of play caught Saints cold, but they responded in the perfect way even if it was through slightly fortunate circumstances as Steven Davis’s cross into the area floated all the way into the net just four minutes before half-time.
There was further drama before the break though as Peter Crouch snaffled a close range header with time running out of the opening 45 minutes which ensured a war of attrition in the second half, though no further goals were added as the Potters held on for a precious point.
For Saints, it’s now five matches unbeaten in the Premier League, whilst the club also remains unbeaten in the last nine home games with Stoke – a run which stretches back to October 1980.
Mauricio Pochettino made two changes with Nathaniel Clyne and Jack Cork coming into the starting eleven at the expense of Calum Chambers and Victor Wanyama, who both dropped to the bench.
Chambers had picked up a light knock at Fulham, but was fit enough to join fellow Saints Academy graduates James Ward-Prowse and Lloyd Isgrove amongst the substitutes.
Sam Gallagher missed the game on compassionate grounds due to the passing of his father earlier in the week.
Visitors Stoke named former Saints striker Peter Crouch in attack, alongside January signing Peter Odemwingie.
The Potters took kick-off with Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan lining up in Stoke’s changed shirts of shale and green, getting the first touches on halfway on a bright and breezy afternoon at St Mary’s.
An early high ball delivered downfield briefly held up in the wind as Stoke announced their arrival with a pass which was greeted by knowing approval by the Saints supporters.
Saints took a few minutes to find their rhythm, but soon asserted themselves, by winning a corner through Rodriguez as Charlie Adam slid in to concede the set piece.
From the short corner, Adam Lallana’s attempted cross was handled by Potters midfielder Adam, who conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area on the left side.
With six minutes on the watch, Saints registered their first shot on target in style as Rickie LAMBERT curled a thunderous free-kick into the top right corner past the outstretched arm of Asmir Begovic for 1-0.
The impressive strike was Lambert’s third goal in four games against Stoke, having also scored in the corresponding fixture at the end of last season.
Artur Boruc was called into action for the first time as Stoke tried to hit back swiftly. Jonathan Walters laid the ball into the path of Peter Odemwingie, but the Nigerian’s low shot was blocked well by the Pole at his near post.
Saints went back on the offensive, giving Stoke a torrid time through the middle, and it was Jay Rodriguez who continued to threaten as he peppered shots in from range. The first effort flew over, but his next attempt was dragged narrowly wide, with the first ten minutes of play belonging to the hosts.
Stoke began to force their way back into the game, with Walters joining Crouch in attack, as Odemwingie moved out wide to give Luke Shaw and Maya Yoshida a fresh challenge down the right flank.
The visitors remained more dangerous from set plays, with Walters getting his head on a Charlie Adam corner. Walters the nodded a cross from Erik Pieters wide, as Boruc remained largely untroubled.
At the other end, Morgan Schneiderlin struck a low shot wide, and then Saints created an even better opportunity for themselves when a swift breakaway was led by Steven Davis. The Northern Irishman sprinted over halfway and took the ball to the edge of the area before playing Nathaniel Clyne who popped up on the left side to test Begovic with a searching low shot.
Saints then won themselves a free-kick some 30 yards from goal when Lambert’s attempted pass forward was handled by Adam .The resulting free-kick curled towards the top left corner, but Begovic was behind it as there was to be no repeat of the striker’s earlier feat.
A downpour from the skies made for a somewhat unpredictable five minute spell as the wind and rain swirled around inside the stadium, but once the action resumed, Saints looked to turn the screw once more.
Nathaniel Clyne saw a low shot blocked before the full-back then crossed to the near post for Lambert, who thought his header had enough on it to beat Begovic, but ended up just drifting wide of the woodwork.
For all of the home side’s dominance, they were pegged back by a bolt from the blue on 38 minutes. Charlie Adam’s defence splitting through-ball picked out the run of Peter ODEMWINGIE who sprinted through one-on-one with Boruc and picked out the back of the net with a cool finish for 1-1.
The scores weren’t level for long though as Saints re-took the lead in quite bizarre circumstances in the 41st minute. A short corner was played out to Steven DAVIS on the right flank, and the midfielder’s swirling cross which was aimed at Lambert, evaded both him and Begovic who was helpless as he saw the ball drop past his outstretched arm for a freak second goal.
But there was another twist before the half-time break as Stoke levelled up again on 43 minutes. Adam’s in-swinging corner from the right was met by the crashing header from Peter CROUCH who beat Boruc at the near post for 2-2.
Saints tried in vain to score for a third time before the interval, with Rodriguez looking to connect with Lambert’s cross, but a collision with Begovic saw the goalkeeper require medical attention from the Stoke physios before the rest of the half could be played out.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-2 STOKE CITY
There were no changes from either side as the action resumed for the second 45 minutes with Saints attacking the Chapel end.
An early free-kick was awarded to Saints after Schneiderlin was taken to ground by Glenn Whelan halfway inside Stoke’s half.
Steven Davis floated the delivery from the free-kick into the area, with the trajectory reminiscent of the cross that resulted in a goal in the first half, but this time Begovic was able to punch clear.
It was a solid start to the half from the hosts who won a corner in the 50th minute when Ryan Shawcross cleared Lambert’s cross into touch. Steven Davis’s corner was met by the head of Jay Rodriguez, but the striker’s effort went narrowly wide of the far post.
Saints continued their search of a third goal with Clyne advancing down the right to cross for Davis, but the header from the midfielder was straight at Begovic, who held on.
The battle heated up towards the hour mark with Stoke applying pressure on either flank. Oussama Assaidi’s cross towards Walters narrowly escaped the forward’s clutches, whilst full back Geoff Cameron joined in with the Potters’ advances.
That left the visitors a little exposed, with Saints looking a danger each time they broke away on the counter-attack. Some dogged defending kept the hosts at bay, but Southampton continued to knock at the door with Jack Cork the latest player to go close with a close range strike which was deflected wide.
Tempers flared a little through midfield with Crouch going into the book for a foul on Schneiderlin, a popular decision amongst the supporters in the Northam stand, who grew aggravated with the frontman’s niggly antics throughout the game.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Saints adopted a more patient approach as they probed for a way past the resilient City backline, but remained frustrated by the wall of Stoke shirts that stood in their way.
Stoke made their first change with Steven N’Zonzi replacing Charlie Adam on 78 minutes, and Saints followed suit with Calum Chambers coming on for Nathaniel Clyne as play entered the last ten minutes.
A well worked move on the back of a free-kick for Saints resulted with Chambers delivering a sweet cross with his first real touch of the match. The pass was met by Schneiderlin at the far post, but the Frenchman could only find the side-netting from an acute angle.
Stoke then threw on striker John Guidetti in place of Oussama Assaidi with the game in the balance during the tense closing stages.
In spite of the drizzly conditions which returned late on, the match remained hard fought right up to the end of a battling encounter.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-2 STOKE CITY
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne (Calum Chambers 80), Maya Yoshida, Jose Fonte, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Steven Davis, Adam Lallana (c), Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prowse, Guly do Prado, Jos Hooiveld, Lloyd Isgrove
Goals: Lambert, 6; S. Davis, 41
Stoke City team: Asmir Begovic, Erik Pieters, Marc Muniesa, Ryan Shawcross (c), Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam (Steven N’Zonzi 78), Glenn Whelan, Oussama Assaidi (John Guidetti 84), Jonathan Walters, Peter Odemwingie, Peter Crouch
Unused substitutes: Thomas Sorensen, Wilson Palacios, Andy Wilkinson, Ryan Shotton, Stephen Ireland
Goals: Odemwingie, 38; Crouch, 43
Referee: C Pawson
Attendance: 27,987 (including 1,041 away)