Southampton are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup following a comfortable 2-0 victory over Huddersfield at St Mary’s, thanks to goals from teenagers Will Smallbone and Jake Vokins.
Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had made 10 changes to the team that beat Tottenham on Wednesday night, handing full debuts to youngsters Jake Vokins and Will Smallbone. Their opponents – currently sitting in 20th place in the Championship – made 4 changes to the team that had lost 5-2 at home to Stoke last time out.
The home side commanded the ball in the first half but struggled to create any clear-cut openings against a resolute Terriers defense. James Ward-Prowse – the sole survivor from the Tottenham win – set up the first shot of the afternoon as he slid a ball inside the corner of the area for Che Adams, whose low, left-footed shot found the gloves of Huddersfield keeper Joel Coleman.
Moments later, the visitors managed their first effort of the game through Frazier Campbell as he found space 18 yards out – but his shot was sliced high over the crossbar. After chances from Smallbone and Danso, the Saints eventually had the ball in the back of the net in the 45th minute when Smallbone played a first-time flick to put Shane Long through on goal, who duly slotted the ball past Coleman. However, celebrations were short lived as VAR determined the right foot of Long was offside.
There was still time for one last chance before the interval and the opportunity came the way of the away side. A low ball came through a crowd of Southampton players and found Juninho Bacuna alone inside the box, but his shot was hit straight at Angus Gunn.
2 minutes after the restart, the Premier League side had the lead for good as the unmarked Will Smallbone emphatically fired home from 12 yards after a cross from Shane Long. The goal capped a dream debut for the 19- year-old who had earlier gathered praise from Ralph Hassenhuttl, calling the midfielder a ‘good young player’.
The game started to gather momentum following the goal and the visitors had a golden chance to equalise on 56 minutes. Bacuna’s free kick was met only a few yards out by Christopher Schlindler but the defender was unable to divert the ball into the net.
Huddersfield committed bodies forward in the final stages in hopes of an equalising goal but it was Southampton who settled the game three minutes from the end. Adams put through Vokins who broke clear down the left-hand side before unleashing a deflected shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
The visitors improved in the second half, but it is the Saints who will contest the 4th round having extended their unbeaten run to 5 matches.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl gave his post-match thoughts to BBC:
I’m happy for [the youngsters]to help bring us into the next round. The most important thing today was to have a serious performance, because it’s a very important competition for us.
It wasn’t always perfect and you couldn’t expect that, but all the players are playing fantastically and I think they did a good job today.
Finally after a busy Christmas period it’s a nice finish.
Next up for Southampton is a trip to highflyers Leicester City on Saturday, where they will hope to extend their current run of form.