By Jonathan Nagioff (@jonathannagioff)
AFC Bournemouth shared the spoils with neighbours Southampton, after both sides drew a blank in a goalless draw at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
Saints substitute Marco Gabbiadini had the best chance of the game in second half stoppage time, with the Italian heading over a free header from close range, in the dying embers.
Josh King came closest for the Cherries in the first period as he spurned his effort wide in the six-yard box, following Callum Wilson’s assist.
Eddie Howe named an unchanged starting eleven from the side which thrashed Watford 4-0 prior to the international break, however the game failed to ever really ignite, with both sides appearing jaded throughout.
The home side made a fast start however, with full back Adam Smith unable to sort out his feet after his driving run into the box, in the opening minutes.
Southampton, who had not registered a single point since mid-September prior to kick off, responded when former Bayern Munich midfielder, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg rifled a speculative volley towards Asmir Begovic, but the Bosnian was able to hold the effort.
Cherries youngster David Brooks almost found his third goal in as many games, with the Welshman latching onto Wilson’s pass before firing wide, an effort which almost mirrored his stunner against Crystal Palace.
A series of injuries followed, starting with Lewis Cook hobbling to the ground and requiring treatment, before getting up to his feet.
A lengthy delay followed soon after, with Nathan Ake and Charlie Austin clashing heads and both requiring on-field treatment.
This stop-start pattern continued throughout the game and arguably contributed to the lack of rhythm both sides managed to conjure up.
Frontman Callum Wilson, who is tied on four goals in all competitions with Ryan Fraser and Josh King wasted an opportunity to become the top scorer outright, heading over Simon Francis’ looping cross.
Austin had a glorious chance to open the scoring for the visitors midway through the first half.
Hojbjerg’s through ball cut open the Cherries’ defence, with the forward drifting past Ake and Begovic before the ball trickled out for a goal kick.
The game was halted again with five minutes of the first period remaining, when Saints summer acquisition Mario Lemina clattered into Josh King, with the Norwegian receiving treatment and the former booked by referee Lee Probert.
Hojbjerg continued to pull the strings in midfield for Mark Hughes’ side and his second volley of the afternoon, was again well held by Begovic, as the half drew to a close.
The half-time break appeared to reinvegurate the hosts, as they showed new-found purpose. King headed summer signing, Jefferson Lerma’s cross just wide.
But, the game was stopped once again through injury following a clash between Cook and Lemina, with the physio coming on to treat the Southampton man.
David Brooks, who played both Nations League matches for Wales against Spain and Republic of Ireland, was replaced by Junior Stanislas as the game approached the hour mark, with Howe aiming to freshen things up.
The change almost worked wonders. Stanislas drove down the left-hand side and fed Wilson with the Englishman sliding the ball into King, however his strike partner scuffed his effort wide in the six-yard box.
The Saints, who have one win all season continued to probe and Hojbjerg registered his third volley of the afternoon, which Begovic had to tip over the crossbar.
Ake almost doubled his tally for the season, but his powerful header from Ryan Fraser’s corner fell straight into Alex McCarthy’s hands.
Both sides made changes as the match approached the last ten minutes, with Fraser replaced by Jordon Ibe, whilst Mark Hughes threw on Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini as they searched for a late winner.
Southampton had the better of the remaining chances, with Begovic called into action to deny Shane Long with a smart save.
The Bosnian stopper hurried out of his area moments later, to prevent Long from latching on to a lofted ball from Hojbjerg.
The visitors continued to look the more likely in the closing stages, with substitute Stuart Armstrong unable to sort his feet out in the area, after Long’s nod down, with Adam Smith clearing away the danger.
Howe could sense his side were up against it and brought on midfielder Dan Gosling in place of Josh King, to settle the visitors’ late flurry.
The change seemed to work, with the Cherries creating some chances of their own.
Wilson went down in the box under a challenge from centre-half Wesley Hoedt but the defender appeared to have won the ball first, amid claims for a penalty.
The home side had a late spell of set pieces which ultimately came to nothing, but the Saints were to left to rue one last opportunity.
Winger Nathan Redmond found space on the right-hand side and whipped the ball into the path of Gabbiadini, but the Italian blazed his free header over from just a few yards out.
It was to be the last chance of the game as the final whistle blew. Bournemouth remain in 6th place, unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions, whilst Southampton stay in 16th picking up their first point, since a 2-2 stalemate with Brighton last month.
Next up for AFC Bournemouth is a trip to 18th placed Fulham on Saturday.