Premier League: Southampton 1 Stoke 1
Rickie Lambert ended his six-game Premier League goal drought to earn his side a point against Stoke City at St Mary’s on Sunday.
The striker had previously gone over nine hours without finding the net, but was on hand to tap home after former Southampton striker Peter Crouch had headed Stoke into the lead.
The home side were without suspended duo Gaston Ramirez and Danny Fox, but Luke Shaw and Lambert both managed to prove their fitness.
Charlie Adam’s red card against Tottenham last week ensured a premature end to his season for Stoke, while Glenn Whelan remained sidelined with a groin injury.
Former England international Michael Owen, who has announced that he will retire at the end of the season, could only manage a place on the bench.
Southampton looked the brighter during the opening exchanges, with Lambert finding the net within the first 30 seconds only for his effort ruled out for offside.
Lambert was at the centre of the home side’s early opportunities, sending several decent chances over the bar during the opening quarter of an hour.
Tony Pulis was handed an early blow ten minutes later, when Marc Wilson was forced to hobble off to be replaced by Andy Wilkinson.
Stoke City came into this came having not won on the south coast since 1980, and they offered little to suggest that they would change that record as the first half wore on.
Matthew Etherington saw his dipping long-range effort fly just over the bar, before Jonathan Walters hit a disappointing shot at goalkeeper Kelvin Davis after a jinking run from the right.
Stoke took the lead moments after the break, as Crouch got ahead of his marker to meet Geoff Cameron’s teasing cross from the right and power a header past a despairing Kelvin Davis.
Southampton appeared unfazed though and responded well, with Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic called upon several times in the space of a few minutes to deny strikes from Steven Davis and Lambert.
But it was Begovic’s fumble that allowed the home side to equalise just before the hour mark.
Adam Lallana’s free-kick was only partially cleared by the Stoke defence, eventually finding its way to Steven Davis, whose shot could only be parried by Begovic into the path of a grateful Lambert, who tapped home from close range.
Michael Owen was introduced to the game late on to a great ovation from the home crowd, but struggled to make an impact, as Southampton continued to press for a winner.
Jason Puncheon, who came off the bench to score in his side's draw with Sunderland last week, was brought on for the hosts but could only strike an effort straight down the throat of Begovic this time around.
The result means that Tony Pulis’s side miss out on a top-half finish, ending the season in 13th, just one point ahead of Southampton who have impressed on their return to the Premier League.