SOUTHAMPTON AC's British Men’s Athletics League team consolidated their Division One status at the halfway mark of the four-match series at Portsmouth.

The team’s third-place finish at the first fixture at Eton in early May could just as easily have been sixth, so tightly bunched were the teams.

By contrast, an improved Southampton, fielding a handful of internationals, came within six points of runners-up Blackheath this time round as the division's top three started to show their class.

Southampton's field contingent have been depleted due to injury and unavailability in the early part of the season – and so it proved at Portsmouth.

While amassing more points on the track – 201 – than any other club, two thirds of the total team score, the field men languished in sixth with several athletes covering multiple events.

Nevertheless, the talent on show was impressive.

England discus international Chris Scott continued his unbeaten start to the league season, winging the 2kg disc out to 53.44 metres in unhelpful wind conditions.

There was a one-two in the high jump with the recently retired Matt Watson reprising his role as comeback kid by snatching second spot in the A string.

Watson actually upstaged protégé Adam Jones, who nevertheless jumped an identical 1.98 to his coach in winning the B string.

Javelin throwers Sonny Nash (55.10) and debutant Graham Lay (43.65) notched a brace of fourth places.

On the track, the speed men were back with a vengeance.

First up, Great Britain international Eden Davis tuned up for the World Junior Championship trials with a 10.55 100m, finishing A-string second.

Not to be outdone, Welsh international Cameron Starr blitzed to B string victory in a lifetime best 10.61.

Starting the fearless battle of attrition which characterises the club’s distance runners’ approach, Chris Hilton put months of injury aside to secure 3000m steeplechase third (10.20.71) – a position matched by B-stringer Tom Cully (10.31.16).

Southampton's U20 400m duo Lynden Olowe (48.97) and Jack Higgins (49.45) repeated their fourth and second places from the Eton match.

The metric mile featured another touch of class as European Cross Country representative Alex Teuten found the finishing pace a little hot after a sedate beginning. Racing way below his best distance, Teuten nevertheless recorded 3.55.76 in third.

Back to the sprints, Alex Beechey tuned up for the forthcoming Cypriot Championships with his fastest ever 200m season's opener of 21.69. A real head turner was another personal best in the non-scoring 200 metres (21.61) for the rapidly improving Starr.

So often the backbone of the team, the distance boys contributed massively as, with events running out, Southampton attempted to rein in second-placed Blackheath.

Jonny Roberts was perfectly positioned for most of the 5000m, just missing out in a last lap tear-up to finish second in 15.10.94. Team mate Matt Revier completed a brace of seconds (15.32.10).

With all hope resting on the relays, Danile Offiah rocketed out of the blocks in the 4x100m, handing off seamlessly to Josh Parry who ran a destructive back straight to extend the advantage.

Starr glided around the third leg bend to slap the baton into the waiting hand of Davis who, accustomed to anchoring the GB team, secured a clear victory in a season’s best 41.66. Ominously, Blackheath hung on for second.

A great 4x400m victory accompanied by a relatively poor Blackheath run could still have swung it in Southampton's favour, but it wasn't to be.

Owen Lawrence's impressive 48.9 opening leg was followed by Alex Beechey (51.6, stepping in with ten minutes' notice and no warm up), Harry Fisher (49.6) and Sean Adams (49.5) as Southampton finished runners-up to Liverpool. But Blackheath clung on for third to secure overall runners-up spot behind Harrow.

Southampton's team manager Gary MacDonald-Gray reflected: “For a team only firing at 80 per cent power, this result shows our potential and has set up a tight struggle in the final two fixtures.

"Promotion is still there for the taking but will rely on our finest stepping forward and sticking at it to realise that ambition."

The next match is the 'Big Bash' at Bedford on July 7 with every one of the 38 BAL teams competing.

Match result: Harrow 355, Blackheath 309, Southampton 303, Liverpool 296, Kingston & Poly 240, WSEH 219, Sale 218, Herne Hill 214.

Division One standings (after 2 matches): Harrow 16, Blackheath 14, Southampton 12, Liverpool 8, WSEH 8, Sale 6, Kingston & Poly 6, Herne Hill 2.