Southampton 2-0 Shrewsbury: Dan N’Lundulu and James Ward-Prowse on target as Saints overcome resilient League One opposition and secure FA Cup fourth round clash against Arsenal on Saturday
A place in round four for Southampton and a performance to lift the spirits of Shrewsbury’s recovering manager Steve Cotterill too.
Twenty-four hours after Ralph Hasenhuttl said life would go on if Southampton lost Danny Ings, who is holding off signing a new deal because he wants a return to a Champions League club, it was perhaps timely that two of their young hopefuls provided a glimpse of the future.
Caleb Watts and opening scorer Dan N’Lundulu played a key role in edging Southampton through in this delayed third round tie.
Captain James Ward-Prowse scored Southampton’s second in the win against Shrewsbury
It secured the Saints’ passage to the FA Cup fourth round where they will host Arsenal
Dan N’Lundulu had earlier given Southampton the lead with a finish into the bottom-corner
The Southampton striker celebrates his opener as the Saints won their third round clash
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Southampton (4-4-2): Forster 7; Valery 7, Stephens 6, Bednarek 7, Vokins 6; Watts 8 (Jankewitz 85, 6), Ward-Prowse 6, Diallo 6 (Finnigan 90, 6), Chauke 6 (Armstrong 79, 6); Long 6 (Adams 79, 6), N’Lundulu 7.
Subs not used: Lewis, Walker-Peters, Bertrand, Ferry, Tchaptchet.
Goals: N’Lundulu 16, Ward-Prowse 89
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl 7.5
Shrewsbury (3-4-3): Sarkic 7; Pierre 7, Ebanks-Landell 6, Pennington 6 (Cummings 85, 6); Williams 6, Norburn 6 (Edwards 74, 6), Vela 7, Golbourne 6 (Sears 73, 6); Whalley 6, Udoh 6 (Pyke 73, 6), Chapman 7 (Tracey 62, 6).
Subs not used: Burgoyne, Edwards. Goss, Clarke, Daniels
Manager: Aaron Wilbraham 7
Referee: Simon Hooper 7.
But it was only just as League One Shrewsbury – missing Cotterill who remained in hospital but out of intensive care after being badly-hit by Covid – proved stubborn opponents before James Ward-Prowse’s late second Southampton sealed the victory which earned them a Saturday lunchtime tie with Arsenal.
This meeting had to be rearranged after the original tie was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak at Shrewsbury which affected 20 people at the club, including Cotterill.
Despite their recent problems Shrewsbury, who only returned to training on Friday, were closer to full strength in their first game of 2021, having been forced to postpone three matches since their previous game on December 29.
Southampton had nine players missing meaning seven changes, bows for academy graduates Caleb Watts and Kgaogelo Chauke and a full debut for Dan N’Lundulu up front.
There was no certainty how they would fare on their first nights but Australian midfielder Watts in particular looked comfortable on the first team stage.
He was heavily involved in most of Southampton’s best first-half moments including the opening goal when he kept James Ward-Prowse’s long ball alive before N’Lundulu opened his Southampton account.
But there was a response to encourage Cotterill and his stand-in coaches Aaron Wilbraham and David Longwell with Harry Chapman and Josh Vela threatening at one end while Southampton struggled to create chances to extend their lead at the other.
While Southampton’s lead remained one Shrewsbury still had hope and Chapman gave the hosts another warning early in the second half.
Matija Sarkic stopped Jack Stephens scoring a second with an excellent close range stop and then denied Watts a deserved debut goal before Aaron Pierre hacked the rebound off the line to prevent what would have been an unlucky own goal.
Shrewsbury put up a good battle at St Mary’s but ultimately came up short on Tuesday night
Shrewsbury stand-in boss Aaron Wilbraham can be proud of the efforts of his League One side
That Hasenhuttl needed to call on Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong was an indication of how things remained on a knife edge.
And Pierre refused to let Southampton enjoy a comfortable finish when he produced another goalline clearance, this time after Adams had rounded Sarkic and seemed certain to score.
But captain Ward-Prowse finally put the tie to bed with a minute left, whipping in a trademark free-kick to make it 2-0.