FA Cup Third Round Proper Replay

Southampton 1

(Shane Long)

Norwich City 0

Attendance: 13,517

St Mary’s Stadium

Not sure what made me want to go to this game, maybe it was the electric atmosphere of seven days earlier when Saints recorded a narrow 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the EFL Cup.

Or was it that I spent my early years constantly wearing a Norwich kit, courtesy of my uncle who lives in East Anglia. Either way, alongside one of my best friends, we headed out for what we were hoping would be an entertaining match.

A week later, the ground, less than half full was less than inspiring and by far the dullest FA Cup game I had been to this season. For whatever reason, the fans didn’t show up, maybe it’s the fact that loyal fans fork out a small fortune on a season ticket alone and don’t fancy the cup games.

Maybe people had spent a lot of cash on trips to Milan, Prague and Isreal so are reining it in a little, or maybe, for some, the FA Cup has lost its magic.

I read a terrible story about the dwindling crowd at Cardiff v Fulham in this round and I couldn’t believe that the cup had lost its magic. For me the FA Cup is awesome and I haven’t missed a round yet, but this game was enough for even the purest of football fan to wince.

Another trip to St Mary’s however is always a pleasure, I do like the ground, but I certainly prefer it when it’s full!

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The Game

Saints set up a home tie with Arsenal in the next round of the FA Cup with a narrow 1-0 victory over Championship side Norwich City.

Shane Long’s goal in injury time sealed the win for Claude Puel’s men who fielded a side with a mix of youth and experience.

It was a lacklustre performance from both sides as Puel named six academy graduates in the starting line up and Alex Neil made eight changes to his side for the replay.

Saints were always the favourites heading into the game but Norwich playing five at the back meant for little action in front of goal, despite Josh Sims finding a bit of space to fire a simple shot from a tight angle that Michael McGovern held on to.

Sam McQueen played a good pass into Jay Rodriguez in the box but the England international scuffed a shot with his weaker foot straight into McGovern’s arms.

The second half wasn’t much better but Sims nearly forced an own goal when he wriggled into the box, fired a ball across goal and it hit Ivo Pinto and just missed the goal and out for a corner.

Stand in captain Maya Yoshida was solid at the back and he played a searching ball into Long who cut inside from the left wing a fizzed a shot just wide of the far post as Saints probed even more.

City created nothing upfront with Kyle Lafferty isolated for most of the game and that was highlighted in the stats with Norwich not registering a single shot on target.

Saints ‘keeper Harry Lewis was making only his second senior appearance but the teenager wasn’t tested as he recorded a clean sheet.

James Ward-Prowse probably had Southampton’s best chance from a free kick when the England Under 21 captain bent it around the wall and it rippled the side netting, fooling the majority of the crowd who started to celebrate before realising it hadn’t gone in.

Norwich’s Alex Pritchard was nearly forced to pay for a lapse in concentration when his pass back to McGoveren was intercepted by Long who passed to Sims who went for a chip over the ‘keeper but it dipped just over.

Puel introduced former Canary Nathan Redmond to the game with a chorus of boos from the visiting fans and he forced a great save from McGovern with a curling effort just inside the box.

As injury time went up, it looked like the game would be heading to extra time before Long broke the deadlock with less than a minute left.

Redmond and McQueen had combined well on the left flank and Long managed to fire a header at McGovern which he could only block before the Irish international poked home the rebound to round off his 100th appearance for Southampton in style.

2016/17 Games: 81

2016/17 Grounds: 57

Total Grounds Visited: 149 (38)

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