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Road to the Bundesliga - Victory at Rostock, snow in the derby and two draws to sign off with

The Boys in Brown went into the final four games of the first half of the season as league leaders. After celebrating an important 3-2 win at Rostock, they let victory slip from their grasp in a derby snowstorm at the Millerntor. The Hürzeler XI were then held to successive draws by Osnabrück and Wehen Wiesbaden to enter the winter break second in the table behind Holstein Kiel, albeit still unbeaten.

Hansa Rostock 2-3 FC St. Pauli
Matchday 14

In front of a sell-out crowd at Hansa Rostock, the Boys in Brown made the worst possible start coming out of the international break when the home side took an early lead through a Júnior Brumado penalty. Nevertheless, they responded in magnificent fashion with three goals in eight minutes. Manolis Saliakas hammered the ball into the top left corner from 25 metres to equalise before goals from Marcel Hartel and Oladapo Afolayan made it 3-1 after 23 minutes. Several missed chances ensured that was the way it stayed at the break. The Hürzeler XI continued to dominate after the restart but almost let things slip in the closing stages. After Brumado had converted from the spot a second time ten minutes from time, Hansa pressed hard for an equaliser, but the Boys in Brown held on to secure another three points.

After matchday 14

Place: 1
Points: 30

FC St. Pauli 2-2 Hamburger SV
Matchday 15

The eagerly awaited visit of HSV was also the first time a crosstown derby had been contested by the league's top two teams. While the visitors went into the game looking to draw level on points with a win, the Boys in Brown were hoping to extend their lead at the top and reclaim the derby bragging rights. In a whirlwind opening, Jackson Irvine opened the scoring on the quarter hour and a curious own goal by HSV keeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes put the Hürzeler XI two ahead with half an hour gone, a lead that could have been bigger had it not been for several missed chances before the break. And they were made to pay for their profligacy when the visitors drew level with two goals in three minutes through Robert Glatzel and Immanuël Pherai as the snow fell in heavy flurries. The game ebbed and flowed, with both teams seeking to get forward in increasingly difficult conditions, but there was to be no further scoring in the 110th Hamburg derby and the Boys in Brown had to settle for a point.

After matchday 15
Place: 1
Points: 31

FC Homburg 1-4 FC St. Pauli
DFB Cup Round of 16

With the DFB Cup Round of 16 on the agenda a few days later, there was little time for frustration after missing out on victory in the derby. The Boys in Brown struggled to get going at fourth-tier FC Homburg, who had beaten Bundesliga outfit Darmstadt 3-0) and second-division side Greuther Fürth 2-1 in previous rounds, though Hauke Wahl did put them in front midway through the first half. The lead didn't last long, however, as a backpass took a nasty bobble on an uneven pitch to deceive keeper Sascha Burchert, allowing Markus Mendler to snatch a surprise equaliser. The Hürzeler XI stepped up the pressure after the interval and got their reward, putting the result beyond doubt with three goals in nine minutes through Elias Saad, Marcel Hartel and Johannes Eggestein to secure a deserved place in the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup and set up a mouth-watering clash against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Millerntor in late January.

VfL Osnabrück 1-1 FC St. Pauli
Matchday 16

The two-match week ended with the last away game of the year at relegation-haunted Osnabrück, a game the Boys in Brown naturally wanted to win. On a sodden pitch due to heavy rainfall, they took the lead from a corner after six minutes, Marcel Hartel delivering the ball into the middle for Jackson Irvine to head home. The Hürzeler XI were the dominant side but failed to add a second goal. Osnabrück fought back after the break and equalised not undeservedly in the closing stages through Charalambos Makridis to make the final score 1-1. With Kiel winning game after game, the two challengers went into the final fixture of the year level on points.

After matchday 16
Place: 1
Points: 32

FC St. Pauli 1-1 SV Wehen Wiesbaden
Matchday 17

The Boys in Brown finished the year with a home game against league newcomers Wehen Wiesbaden at the Millerntor. Wearing one-off diversity shirts, they dictated the proceedings from the off and eventually took a long overdue lead through Marcel Hartel just after the restart. It remained one-way traffic, but Wiesbaden keeper Florian Stritzel was in outstanding form and produced a string of saves before the inevitable happened, as the visitors stepped up a gear in the closing stages and levelled through John Iredale. Stritzel then denied Connor Metcalfe what looked like the winner, and it remained 1-1, the third draw in a row and the ninth in total in the first half of the season. Thanks to their fifth win in a row, Kiel leapfrogged the Hürzeler XI to end the year leading by two points. The Boys in Brown went into the winter break two points clear of HSV in third and three ahead of fourth-placed Düsseldorf.

After matchday 17
Position: 2
Points: 32

Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters