STOKE CITY twice came from behind to claim a valuable away day point against Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium.
First half goals from Peter Odemwingie – his first for the Club – and Peter Crouch earned Mark Hughes’ men a draw they richly deserved on a wet and windy afternoon in Hampshire.
Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis scored for the home side but the Potters hit back on both occasions to earn their first point on their travels in five Premier League outings.
Manager Hughes was forced to make two changes to his starting line-up with Marko Arnautovic ruled out through injury and illness sidelining Marc Wilson.
Arnautovic failed to recover from the ankle injury he picked up in the win over Manchester United, so his spot went to Oussama Assaidi, while Marc Muniesa was handed only his fourth Premier League start after a chest infection put paid to Wilson’s hopes of playing.
Southampton drew first blood, however, as Lambert enhanced his claims for a place in Roy Hodgson’s England World Cup squad with a spectacular sixth minute opener.
Charlie Adam was penalised for handball on the left-hand edge of the City area and Lambert stepped up to hammer the resultant free-kick beyond the reach of Asmir Begovic.
Artur Boruc, who was famously beaten by an Asmir Begovic long clearance when the two sides met at the Britannia Stadium In November, made a routine save to deny Odemwingie as Stoke went in search of a quick-fire equaliser.
The Potters failed to capitalise on an excellent ball in from Erik Pieters midway through the first half as Jon Walters failed to direct his header on target, while Begovic made an outstanding save to deny Nathaniel Clyne after Davis had counter-attacked swiftly from a City corner.
Begovic denied Lambert – and the Saints – a second goal with a routine save from a long-range free-kick 10 minutes before the break – and moments later Stoke were level.
Adam’s exquisite through ball sent Odemwingie clear and the January transfer window capture from Cardiff kept his composure to bag his first goal for the Club.
Hughes’ men were level for just three minutes, though, as Davis’ innocuous looking cross from the right deceived the Stoke rear guard and found the bottom right-hand corner of Begovic’s net.
It was a bitter pill to swallow but the visitors responded in the best possible fashion and levelled for a second time just two minutes later as ex-Southampton man Crouch headed past Boruc from an in-swinging Adam corner.
Begovic required a lengthy spell of treatment on the stroke of half-time after taking a blow to the head in a collision with Jay Rodriguez and the Bosnian was called into action at the start of the second half as he parried a Davis free-kick as Southampton looked to go ahead for a third time in the match.
Rodriguez should have done exactly that in the 50th minute but instead planted a free header from a corner wide of Begovic’s right-hand upright. Cork also went close, firing into the side-netting after City had only partially cleared a free-kick.
Crouch went into the referee’s book midway through the second half following a clumsy challenge on Morgan Schneiderlin, while Hughes introduced Nzonzi to the action at the expense of goal-scorer Adam with 14 minutes remaining.
City made a second change six minutes from time with John Guidetti replacing Assaidi as Hughes went in search of a winner but instead they had to settle for a point.