Southampton were held to a goalless draw by a resilient Stoke side in a crucial game at the St. Mary's Stadium on Saturday, which saw two sides at the foot of the table battle it out for three points.
The first-half was a dire contest as neither side managed to trouble Jack Butland or Alex McCarthy in between the posts. The only glimpse of goal came for the away side when Xherdan Shaqiri's pinpoint delivery was met by Badou Ndiaye, who saw his header expertly tipped around the post.
The second-half was played with more purpose by both sides. But it was the home side that should have taken all three points, as they squandered a number of clear cut chances. Josh Sims had three separate opportunities to break the deadlock, while substitute Sofiane Boufal saw his free header fall just wide of the post.
The hosts went into the game without a win in their last two and were outside of the bottom three on goal difference, whilst Stoke had only one win in 10 games and were just a point behind them in 19th. There was lots at stake for both sides in the context of the relegation battle here.
The start of the match was a slow burner for all those in attendance at the St. Mary's Stadium, as the first real chance of the game came just three minutes before half-time.
Shaqiri delivered a wonderful ball into the box to find N'Diaye, but the Senegalese star's header was tipped round the post by Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
The most interesting battle on the field was between Wesley Hoedt and Mame Biram Diouf, as the latter seemed to stamp on Hoedt's foot, and was perhaps lucky to escape without a card.
And just five minutes later the Southampton defender crashed into Diouf as the pair contested a header. The Stoke forward was flattened with some force and this resulted in the player having to be substituted, as he went off in clear discomfort.
21' Stoppage in play, Diouf goes down under a challenge, looks likely to go off with a shoulder injury. Pieters to come on we think, Stafylidis LW and Choupo-Moting to go up top (0-0) #SCFC— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) March 3, 2018
There was constant pressure from the home side, but goals have often been hard to come by for the Saints, and every chance they created came to nothing. This has been a regular occurrence for Pellegrino's side, as they have created the most chances outside of the top-six in the Premier League - but don't seem to have the potency to find the net.
They should have taken the lead when Josh Sims took a fantastic touch to go round Martins Indi, but the youngster was hesitant in taking his shot, giving the centre-back time to make a challenge and clear it.
As Anthony Taylor blew the whistle for half-time the home side made their thoughts clear as there were loud jeers ringing around the stadium after the fans witnessed a half that lacked any quality.
More happened in the first thirty seconds of the second-half than the whole of the first-half, as Sims found himself through on goal after poor defending from stoke, but the 20-year-old saw his tame shot saved by Butland at the near post.
From then on the game had a different feel as both sides seemed to play with desperation and like two sides that couldn't afford to lose.
The best chance of the game came on the hour-mark and it fell again to Josh Sims. He linked up well with Cedric, playing a neat one-two in the box which opened the space up for him, but again his effort lacked any conviction and was met by Butland, who clung on well.
The Saints pressure was increasing and they were asking questions of Butland in the Stoke goal. Firstly, the England goalkeeper denied Cedric when it fell for him on the edge of the box, and the right-back thundered a first-time effort toward goal, which Butland duly kept out.
Then the Potter's keeper finely parried Nathan Redmond's curling shot away to keep the scored level.
The home side should have taken the lead when substitute Sofiane Boufal almost made an instant impact, when he rose high to direct a free header from Nathan Redmond's cross, but his effort crept wide of the post.
It was beginning to show that it wasn't going to be either side's day, as opportunities were constantly squandered. It was a nervy encounter and it ended with both sides gaining a point apiece.
Both sides haven't managed to climb away from the dropzone as we enter the last third of the season. The Saint's next game will be another crucial six-pointer against Newcastle, while the Potter's face a tough away day to champions-elect, Manchester City.
Paul Lambert names an unchanged starting XI for this afternoon's @premierleague game against @SouthamptonFC.— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) March 3, 2018
Just four changes on the bench at St Mary's as follows:
↪️ Haugaard, Shawcross, Crouch and Fletcher
↩️ Grant, Adam, Ramadan and Campbell#SCFC ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/B1ODkxMzgv