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Watford 1 v 1 Southampton
FA Cup
Sunday, 28th January 2024 Kick-off 14:00
Southampton At Watford The FA Cup Verdict
Monday, 29th Jan 2024 09:46

It was 22 games unbeaten in all competitions, as expected Russell Martin rang the changes, but it almost cost us dearly as for just over an hour Saints struggled after conceding an early goal.

It was no surprise when the starting line up to take on Watford was announced, it saw 9 changes from the team that started at Swansea City 8 days earlier with only Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Che Adams starting at Vicarage Road.

At the back is should have been the foundation of a solid performance only Jayden Meghoma having little experience, but they started the game in complete disorganisation, a soft free kick given away should have been easily dealt with, but bizarrely Joe Lumley in the Saints goal failed to organise a wall of any sorts and he then got caught out on his near post with just 5 minutes on the clock.

The rest of the first half turned out to be just as poor for Saints as they struggled to get any sort of meaningful attacks together from either the back or midfield and looked shaky at the back, only Taylor Harwood Bellis looking like he was comfortable.

The second half started vey much in the same way with Saints struggling to get the ball to he forwards and create any decent chances in the main, Mason Holgate's effort and Watford keeper Bachmann turned over drive.

It all changed on 63 minutes when Russell Martin made four changes, off went Dibling, Adams, Charles & Rothwell and on came Will Smallbone, Ryan Fraser and both Armstrong's.

The change was immediate, we looked to have urgency and the pace of Adam Armstrong & Ryan Fraser was causing problems.

Suddenly we were creating chances and looking dangerous, but the goal wouldn't come, but then in the 89th minute the Bachmann again had to make a smart save, this time from Sekou Mara, the ball came to Stuart Armstrong who from position not far from where Watford had scored the opener, took the ball and feinted that he was going to curl the ball into the far corner, but instead went the other way and the ball nestled into the net in the same place it had finished in 84 minutes earlier.

Saints pushed for a winner and Watford were now leggy, but there was simply not enough injury time to push the point home.

A lot of Saints fans were critical of the players out there, the usual subjects coming in for stick as well as some not so usual, but the truth is we couldn't make as many changes as we did and expect to just go out and roll over a team in our own division.

We threw in 11 players who had not played together much as a team and we struggled, it is easy to pick out individuals but the truth was it was a team issue. not an individual one, forwards can't get chances unless they get the ball in good positions, they didn't, the midfield struggled to create or stifle, the defence was all at sea.

The introduction of just 4 players showed how things could be changed and suddenly become a different team.

So it was pointless to slag off individuals on the day, Russell Martin showed exactly where his priorities lie, keeping focused on winning in the League and using the FA Cup to give the fringe players a game.

There wasn't a man on the pitch that didn't put in the effort, but we were too disjointed to make it count.

So I left the ground not spitting feathers about a poor display, but thinking about the next game in the Championship, that is the game that matters and it will be a completely different side in action.

Russell Martin's only interest in the FA Cup is of it's usefulness in giving his squad players a game, he is not interested in the result, he is looking at which individuals did what, I would suspect that for the replay we will see a similar team out, but if we beat the Hornets, then he truly has a dilemma, does he put the lambs out to the slaughter at Anfield or does he put out a strong team and to be blunt probably still get slaughtered.

Photo: Action Images

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HythePeer added 09:53 - Jan 29
Saints should have been docked 2 goals purely on strip design. 😝

Centurion added 10:09 - Jan 29
Play the squad players again for the replay against Watford.
If we lose, so be it.
Let's not worry about Liverpool unless we win against Watford.

underweststand added 10:25 - Jan 29
With all respect to those who started the game, it was almost " a Reserve team " wearing Saints 'shirts. Having said that we needed to see what our young talents are capable of, and this was a game where - if we wouldn't have cost us 3 points.
The selection of " certain players " was necessary as RM needed to assess their abilities against a strong, physical side who had already got a draw against our first choice side in a tough game back in December.
Adams, Lumley, Rothwell and Holgate were all there ..but for different reasons, and the starts for Alcaraz, Mara and Charles did little to improve our knowledge of their abilities to be (eventual) Prem. players if we are to get promotion. Meghoma and Dibling showed a lot of effort but little reward for their hour on the pitch, and Sam Amo-Ameyaw showed up a bit in the last 20 minutes.
Fortunately the " regulars" came on and levelled out the game with Stuart A. popping up with...yet another late goal ...and an SMS replay, with the prospect of a trip to Liverpool.

131153 added 10:46 - Jan 29
Clearly Lumley has spent too much time on the training pitch with McCarthy. No idea where near post is.

Bowlercow added 11:33 - Jan 29
This can be seen as a real positive It gave fringe players a chance to show and in the replay it is a chance for players returning from injury to get some match practice The likes of Bree Sulemana Edozie and the new signing (whoever he is)should all start that game

JoeEgg added 12:16 - Jan 29
Not so sure that I agree about this all being seen as a positive. Nick has drummed on about our 'strength in depth' but this match showed very conclusively that although we may have the numbers we do not necessarily have the quality.
There were players out there like Holgate, Charles, Alcaraz and Stephens who could have been expected to do much better. Watford also had a weakened side so I'm not looking for excuses for our performance.
My main positive from the game is that I am beginning to trust in Russell Martin, something I found hard to do 20 or so matches ago! He will have learned from the Watford experience and this can only enhance our future prospects and policies.
Unlike Nick I would love to see Saints put more energy and priority into having a great Cup run. There is nothing that lifts the spirits and expectations of both players and supporters more than achieving something really worthwhile whether it be Cup or League.
At the moment Leicester, Leeds, Ipswich and ourselves all have teams that will surely struggle back in the Premiership. Lets enjoy success in the Cup and gradually put together a team that can take the Premier League by storm!!

SaintPaulVW added 12:36 - Jan 29
I'm sort of glad that the errors leading to the first goal happened. Both players Holgate and Lumley can learn from it and if pressed into action in a league match at short notice wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

Agree FA cup is great way to give minutes to squad players and result really doesn't matter. Good to see that we reverted to type when the old hands came on for the last 30 minutes. Thought Meghoma and Sam AA looked great, although take RM's point about Sam not really needing to worry too much about defending.



SaintNick added 12:37 - Jan 29
joeegg, two things we got the same result at Watford as our "First" side did and i don't think Watford made as many changes as us, it was a case of too many changes in this one I am afraid, the likes of Holgate & Stevens did keep the score down to 1-0 and looked better when the subs came on, Alcaraz and mara also picked up.

With regard to an FA Cup run, but would iit be counterproductive, since the Premier League began only two clubs from outside the top flight have reached the final, Cardiff in 2008 and Millwall back in 2004, the chances of actually reaching the final are very small.

SanMarco added 13:23 - Jan 29
I fully agree with Nick about not blaming individuals. The fault was with the manager. If his aim is to 'rest' players (even though there was no midweek game before or after this one) and if he wishes to give squad players a chance to impress then he should do it in a rational and sensible way. The starting players were not given the chance to play in the first team system because it didn't exist until half of them were taken off. Players do not gain confidence or meaningful experience from playing in a game like that. Far better to make 4 changes because the 4 that come in will have a meaningful experience. You can then use subs depending on how the game is going. There is also of course the need to respect the thousamds of Saints fans who travelled.

By doing what he did RM managed to get the result that he presumably wanted least. If we do go to Anfield then I would respectfully suggest that we put out a stronger team!!

ericofarabia added 13:34 - Jan 29
The problem with making so many changes is that the youngsters in particular, aren't benefitting from being a part of a set up where most players are comfortable with RussBall.
Tyler Dibling didn't get any help from Holgate behind him and looked a sorry figure stuck out on the wing.
Does Stephens think there is a speed radar on the halfway line and anything above walking pace isnt permitted?
Rothwell is by his own admission still learning RussBall and didn't offer much at all.
Yep we didn't lose, but no team in a competitive match should be sent out just for match time.... is all about trying to win and give 4000 travelling fans value for money, ok cheap to get in, but everything else mounts up.

Monksway added 18:01 - Jan 29
Not sure our squad is as strong as might be suggested. OBut only way for them to improve is to play. Watford replay gives them another chance which should help us in the long run regardless of the result.

aceofthebase added 18:06 - Jan 29
ericofarabia First class comments, they must be because I completely agree!

SaintCanuck added 18:17 - Jan 29
Firstly , I think it was a good result given the team permutations, Secondly it gives fans like me who couldn't get a ticket another chance to go to an FA cup game , thirdly Watford have at times been an awkward /bogey team for us over the years . I saw us get thrashed 7-1 in a League cup game. COYS

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