Southampton have gone back to basics as they prepare for tonight’s renewal of their bitter rivalry with Portsmouth after an eight-year break.
Saints boss Gordon Strachan has pledged a no-frills performance from his side, who go into the Carling Cup fourth round tie at St Mary’s in a desperate run of form.
Their last four results read lost, drawn, lost, lost – and the flow of goals, which ran at a trickle at the start of the season, has completely dried up.
The opposition net has rippled just 10 times in 14 Barclaycard Premiership games – and not once in their last six hours of action.
Strachan blames the points and goals drought on his side getting ideas above their station after a promising start to the campaign.
“We tried to be more sophisticated, maybe more than we could handle,” he said.
“We got to eighth and were looking at how we get to seventh or sixth. We felt we had to play like the teams up there – but we have not got the ability to do that.
“The stats say it is not working as there are not as many shots, chances and free-kicks in dangerous areas as last year. We are one of the best sides defensively but one of the worst attacking.
“We have not played well this season full-stop and now we have to open a new chapter. Playing well is making chances and now we have to get back to basic football and be organised.”
Tonight’s derby date is the first meeting between Southampton and Portsmouth since January 1996, when Saints won 3-0 at The Dell in an FA Cup third round tie.
The last time the rivals clashed in the league was way back in 1988.
Pompey will bring 4,250 fans across the Solent tonight and Southampton police have responded to fears of crowd trouble by vastly increasing the number of officers on duty for a normal Saints game.
Around 300 policemen and women will be in and around St Mary’s, including plain-clothes ‘spotters’ and officers from the force’s Football Intelligence Unit to weed out any known hooligans.
Pubs near the ground will close early and the tone of the evening is likely to be set by the respect Portsmouth supporters show during a pre-match minute’s silence for Southampton president Ted Bates, who died last week.
Southampton police chief superintendent Paul Stickler said: “This tie presents an exciting opportunity to enjoy the local derby.
“We will work hard to ensure the people of Southampton and Portsmouth enjoy the evening and what is bound to be a memorable match.
“We recognise there will be added spice to this game as it will be decided on the night.”
Saints chairman Rupert Lowe added: “The game means extra pressure on our stadium operation because of historical issues and the larger percentage of away fans for Carling Cup games.
“It is an exciting game and it is important we maintain the family spirit we try to promote at this club.”
Striker Kevin Phillips missed training yesterday due to a virus but is expected to recover in time to face Pompey.
Left-back Graeme Le Saux is out with a hamstring injury, while forwards Marian Pahars and Agustin Delgado are fully fit after long-term ankle and back injuries respectively.