After our midweek trip to Burnley, we head to the South coast to play Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. Southampton are 14th in the Premier League and we’re 7/2 with the bookies; evidently the odds were before my team line-up were seen because I make 11 changes. I’m anticipating teams looking to sign my players in the summer, so it’s a chance for some players to put their hands up and show that they should be the replacement, whilst others have the chance to reclaim their starting place that they’ve lost through injury or loss of form:
As well as changes to my starting line-up, there’s a tweak in formation as I replace my AMC with a DMC. The changes see debuts for Vaclav Kostka and Clement Baud. Southampton start strongly and in the 8th minute, Wheater heads a corner wide from 12 yards out. They go closer in the 22nd minute when Jardel hits a free kick from 20 yards and is denied by the post and we scramble the ball clear. Sadly, scrambling the ball clear tends to involve it coming straight back and that’s what happens as Southampton pile the pressure on; Ait Fana blazes over from 16 yards in the 28th minute, Grosicki shoots wide from 16 yards in the 34th minute and Metodi Spasov tips over a Jardel shot from 12 yards in the 37th minute. The second half sees Southampton make the breakthrough in the 57th minute when Sutchuin crosses from the right and Jardel is on hand to convert from 6 yards. Three minutes later, Jardel goes down in the area and picks up a yellow card for diving. The 70th minute sees Sutchuin come close to adding a goal to his assist when his head meets a left wing cross from 6 yards, but he finds the bar. We go upfield and Makris shoots from 10 yards, but it’s straight at Turnbull. Our crossbar is rattled again five minutes later when Jardel crosses from the right and Boymans finds it with a header from 6 yards. Ryan Mason shoots from 18 yards in the 77th minute and Turnbull spills the shot, but Southampton get to the rebound first and are able to clear it. Wheater meets an inswinging corner from Ait Fana and makes it a hat-trick of headers that come off the bar. Southampton wrap the game up in the 86th minute to the delight of the majority of the 20,515 in attendance when a long diagonal ball from right to left sees Spasov come out, stop and Ait Fana pick up the ball and roll it into the unguarded net. In stoppage time, Mikkel Valentin takes an outswinging corner from the left and Federico Cenci meets it at the near post with a diving header, but it hits one of our players and is cleared by Southampton. Ait Fana is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.8 and a goal. All credit to Southampton who fully deserved their victory and could have won by more (as 4 efforts hitting the woodwork demonstrate), but my changes didn’t work and I’m disappointed we didn’t take our chances, especially when Turnbull spilled an effort.
Whilst we’re bowing out of the cup, league action continues and we drop to 5th. 4 more players join the club on trial; Belarusian DM/MC Alexandr Dyatel for 4 weeks, Polish DC Daruisz Sliwa for 2 weeks, Salvadoran AMR/ST Roberto Flores for a week and Tunisian DC Nizar Sassi for a week.