Two homegrown debutants strike as Hasenhuttl’s gamble pays off


Ralph Hasenhuttl’s sweeping team selection proved astute as a much-changed Southampton advanced into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

Despite making ten changes to the side, with only James Ward-Prowse retaining his spot from their New Years Day victory against Tottenham, a goal just after half-time from debutant Will Smallbone eased any existing Saints nerves.

Saints capped off their FA Cup display with a second from a fellow 19-year-old who was also making his full debut. Jake Vokins’ thunderous effort five minutes from time was a moment the homegrown youngster will never forget.

But for the most part, Southampton’s fringe players issued a tame reminder to manager Ralph Hasenhuttl after a comfortable but laboured team display saw off Huddersfield.

Keen to keep momentum going whilst having to freshen things up, Ralph Hasenhuttl faced a selection dilemma ahead of kick-off.

Taking an impressive ten points out of the 12 available over the festive season, the Austrian might have been understandably reluctant to tinker with the starting 11. However, the Saints boss admitted a hectic Christmas schedule would force him to make sweeping changes to what was a settled side.

Due to his team rediscovering their high-octane pressing style in recent weeks and the Terriers clash being their fifth in 15 days, Hasenhuttl conceded it would soon be inevitable the players lose their ‘automatism.’

Che Adams was recalled to the starting line-up after recent speculation had linked the 23-year-old with a loan move to Championship front-runners, Leeds. Speaking on Friday, Hasenhuttl revealed the striker was ‘not so happy with his game-time’ but was not considering loaning him out.

While wholesale changes can often give the team or a manager an excuse for a below par performance, Southampton retained an ‘as you were’ feel to proceedings, opting to stick with their tried and trusted 4-2-2-2 system.

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With the Yorkshire-outfit content sticking all 11-men behind the ball, the hosts prodded and probed – albeit slowly – from the first whistle. Will Smallbone, Che Adams and Kevin Danso all had chances but were unable to test Joel Coleman in the Huddersfield goal.

On the stroke of half-time, Shane Long thought he’d opened the scoring only for VAR (that was only used in Premier League stadiums for the third round) to deny the Irishman.

Two minutes after the break, Southampton did strike. Undeterred by his miss in the first-half, Will Smallbone eventually marked his debut for the club with a goal. The midfielder’s late run into the box was not picked up, leaving the 19-year-old with time to execute a composed half-volley into the bottom-right corner.

It was almost as if Huddersfield were just happy to be there. Offering very little in attack, despite the introduction of top-scorer Karlan Grant, the game was lacking any real quality from either side.

With five minutes to go, fellow debutant Jake Vokins got in on the act. The full-back continued his run down the left-flank before firing a powerful effort from the edge of the box. Making the goal look even better, the ball cannoned off the crossbar and into the goal.

Dull in the most part and lacking their characteristic intensity, it’s fair to say Hasenhuttl would have been expecting more from his players. Nonetheless, the debuts and in particular the goals from Vokins and Smallbone would have been major positive.

Hasenhuttl’s men find out who they’ll meet in the next round when the draw takes place on Monday.

Team Lineups:

Southampton (4-2-2-2): Gunn; Danso (Cedric 74′), Yoshida, Vestergaard, Vokins; Smallbone (Armstrong 70′), Ward-Prowse (c), Romeu, Boufal (Obafemi 78′); Adams, Long

Substitutes unused: Lewis, Stephens, Slattery, Ings

Huddersfield (4-5-1): Coleman; Simpson, Schindler (c), Stankovic, Brown; Hadergjonaj, Hogg, Chalobah, O’Brien (Koroma 82′), Bacuna (Grant 65′); Campbell (Mounie 61′)

Substitutes unused: Schofield, High, Daly, Harratt

Attendance: 20,091


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Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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