Saints make it to 4th round at fortress St. Mary’s

Southampton beat Preston North End 2-1 at St. Mary’s to progress to the 4th round of the League Cup, marking a record 14th consecutive home win for the club. Adam Barton levelled the score in the 52nd minute after a simple header from Jos Hooiveld gave the hosts the advantage in the first half. However, Southampton dominated the game – Barton’s equaliser was against the run of play – and inspired substitute Adam Lallana fired in the winning goal with only his second touch of the game, giving the Saints a deserved victory.

Both teams are in fine form in the league, and, likewise, both teams have aspirations of promotion this season. Key players from both squads were rested, with Nigel Adkins making 10 changes to the side that were elevated to the top of the Championship after a 4-1 win over Birmingham the previous weekend. Phil Brown fielded 11 individuals that had barely played as a team, and it showed; whilst their defending wasn’t exactly a horror show, North End’s ball retention was woeful and arguably cost them the game.

Brown fielded a weaker side, but had intentions of going through to the next round. After the game, he described himself as  “bitterly disappointing”.

We defended well enough, but when we got possession of the ball we were giving it straight back to them. It was nothing to do with making 10 changes – this was about application and attitude, and when we attacked, we kept giving the ball away.

The unfavoured Craig Morgan was paired with inexperienced Australian youth player Bailey Wright at centre-back, whilst a relatively unfit Steven Smith completed the defence in a somewhat unconventional formation. No surprise then, that the first goal came from a set-piece. Lee Holmes floated in a deep cross from the corner, and when Ben Reeves nodded it back across goal at the back post, Celtic loanee Hoiveld made it 1-0 with the simplest of finishes.

Reeves and Hoiveld had chances to put Southampton further ahead, but it was Adam Barton who grabbed the next goal, and a way back into the match for Preston. Bialkowski parried a Darel Russell effort, but the ball fell to Barton who scrappily bundled the ball home to make it 1-1.

Despite fielding a ‘weak’ team, Adkins kept new signing Lallana on the bench for backup, and when he was introduced in the 66th minute, it didn’t long for him to make his mark. After spraying the ball out wide for Holmes, Lallana took up a good position in the box and headed home the winner from close range.

Trying to replicate the success, Brown brought on the in-form Mellor to try to snatch a late winner, but North End were lacking in the final third. Mellor reportedly had possessions stolen from his luggage at Manchester Airport, but he failed to steal a way back into the game as it ended 2-1 to Southampton.

Mellor failed to take positives from the game, calling it ‘a bad trip all round’, but Phil Brown noted that he was pleased with Bailey Wright’s performance and mentioned the fact that Steven Smith managing to play 70 minutes was ‘a big boost’.

North End taste defeat for the first time since the opening day of the season, but retain their impressive league form going into Saturday’s PNE Day clash with Tranmere Rovers, where a crowd of over 16,00 is expected.

– Rory

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  1. […] Full Match Report | Highlights […]

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