STOKE CITY were indebted to a large slice of good fortune as they held in-form Southampton to a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
The Saints, who arrived at the Britannia Stadium with a record of keeping five clean sheets from their last six encounters, fell behind just 14 seconds into the game as a long punt forward from Asmir Begovic caught hold of the wind and left Artur Boruc red faced at the other end of the pitch.
Opportunities came and went to double the advantage with both Ryan Shawcross and Marko Arnautovic guilty of missing the target from 6-yards.
Southampton played the more eye-catching football in the treacherous conditions however, and were rewarded for their efforts with a clinically taken Jay Rodriguez header prior to the half-time interval.
The two side’s each had second-half opportunities to win the game, but neither managed to forge what would have been a crucial breakthrough.
Prior to the game Mark Hughes made six changes to his starting line-up from the side that progressed through to the last eight of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, courtesy of a penalty shoot-out triumph against Birmingham City.
Geoff Cameron and Erik Pieters both resumed their duties at full-back alongside the recalled Bosnian stopper Begovic.
Stephen Ireland and Jonathan Walters were also both included as was Glenn Whelan, who made only his second league start of the campaign, having last featured on ther opening day of the season at Anfield.
You could sense the apprehension and anxiety amongst some of the supporters prior to kick-off after enduring a run of six weeks without tasting top-flight success.
Hughes said prior to the game that his side could do with a little bit of luck, having seen numerous points slip by in undeserving defeats at Fulham, and more recently Manchester United.
That bit of luck fell Stoke’s way just 14 seconds into the game in the most incredible of circumstances.
Southampton, boasting the league’s best defensive record prior to kick-off, amazingly got the game underway in the incredibly windy conditions at the Britannia Stadium, but bizarrely fell behind to a Begovic ldrive forward from inside his own penalty box.
Undoubtedly aided by the gusty winds, the Bosnian hammered the ball deep into the Saints half following an Arnautovic back-pass, taking one bounce and flying beyond Boruc, straight into the back of the net.
Before the supporters had managed to catch their breath, the advantage should have been doubled when Ryan Shawcross was picked out unmarked inside the 6-yard box, but failed to make the necessary contact with the ball, which would have rippled the back of the net for a second time.
Some neat interchange between Austrian ace Arnautovic and Peter Crouch culminated in the former Werden Bremen planting a header wide of goal, as the Potters continued in the ascendency but unable to find a second breakthrough.
At the other end the visitors began to show the intent that had served them so well over the opening months of the season, with Rickie Lambert proving to be a real menace to the City rearguard.
The England international fired over from 25-yards following a swift counter-attack, before he freed James Ward-Prowse with an intelligent ball forward, only for the youngster to hammer his effort wide of goal.
Shortly before the break though, Mauricio Pochettino’s side were level – and probably deservedly so.
A sublime ball into the City penalty box from Ward-Prowse was met by the head of Rodriguez, and he managed to firmly plant his effort down into the ground before watching it bounce over Begovic and into the top left hand corner of the net.
The goal breathed fresh life into the Saints, who arguably should have taken a 2-1 lead into the interval after Rodriguez failed to control a clever ball through, when had he been able to get it from under his feet would have had a clear sight at goal.
The break brought with it an enforced change for the hosts, as the injured Whelan was replaced in the side by Wilson Palacios, who had dropped to the bench after featuring in each of the side’s last two encounters.
At times the weather turned the action into a farce, with neither side managing to pass the ball around with any fluidity.
That said, it was the visitors who adjusted better during the early stages of the second period, retaining the ball incredibly well given the gusty winds sweeping through the stadium.
It was at the other end of the pitch that a third goal of the afternoon was almost scored though when Walters freed Arnautovic, only for Boruc to produce the best save of the afternoon to deny the forward a third goal in as many games.
Robert Huth defended a deep Southampton free-kick superbly well, with Lambert poised to pounce, moments before the impressive Ward-Prowse curled a 20-yard free kick onto the roof of the net.
Oussama Assaidi, who netted his first goal for the Club midweek, was thrust into action just after hour mark as Hughes looked to rejuvenate his side, and find a way past a stubborn Southampton rearguard.
The Moroccan showed flashes of brilliance on the flank with his pace and trickery, and on more than one occasion left the Saints back-line for dead, only for a mixture of poor finishing and poor conditions to thwart his efforts at goal.
The visitors certainly weren't just making up the numbers though and they pressed forward in search of a winning goal of their own.
Penalty appeals were turned down by the referee when Shawcross appeared to have handled a hopeful punt into the box, whilst Dejan Lovren's surging run forward was crucially stopped thanks to a superb Geoff Cameron tackle.
It was the home side who had the final opportunity of the game though, as a long throw in from Cameron, found its way to Arnautovic, only for Boruc to thwart the talented forward with a good save down to his left.
There was a brief moment of panic in the final minute of stoppage time as Gaston Ramirez burst through on goal, thankfully for the hosts, both Begovic and the linesman came to their rescue.