On the balance of play Southampton may feel they deserved more than the point that kept them top of the Championship table. On the balance of genuine chances, however, a draw was not a miscarriage of justice. The Derby manager, Nigel Clough, had predicted a game in which each side would play to win, and neither let the scoreline or the clock daunt that ambition, even if Southampton enjoyed more of the ball. Either team might have snatched a second as the final whistle approached.
"I thought it was a good game," Clough said. "A draw was probably fair overall. We came out of the blocks and scored a great goal. In the past we might have buckled after conceding; we can play better on the ball, but in terms of effort and determination, I can't fault that."
Derby took the lead after three minutes when the Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis pushed Ben Davies's shot towards Theo Robinson, who side-footed the ball home for his first goal of the season. Gradually Southampton found their groove. Guly do Prado lashed the ball over the bar shortly before Richard Chaplow found the target, but also Frank Fielding. In the 18th minute the Derby goalkeeper gathered a flicked David Connolly header after Rickie Lambert had lifted a stray corner goalwards and with half an hour on the clock Fielding got a hand to another Guly shot.
The second half was as breathless as the first, with Guly combining with Chaplow to miss an open goal from an offside position before thwarting Robinson's efforts at the other end. Lambert threatened in the 58th minute, but dwelt on the shot just long enough to give Fielding time to set himself. A few minutes later, however, he allowed the keeper no such opportunity. Lambert worked a neat one-two with Connolly before turning the ball back across goal and into the bottom corner.
"We controlled the game well but maybe didn't quite have the cutting edge we've had this season," the Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins, said. "It's great that we're top but that's going to change. We want to be in the race come January."