|Southampton 2 v 0 Shrewsbury Town|
Tuesday, 19th January 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Southampton V Shrewsbury Town The Preview
Tuesday, 19th Jan 2021 09:59
Saints take on Shrewsbury Town at St Mary's this evening in the 3rd round of the FA Cup looking to have a good run in the competition, but an unprecedented injury list means that it will be a mix and match side and Ralph Hasenhuttl will need to shield some players.
The problem for Ralph Hasenhuttl will not just be that he has so many out injured, but that in some positions he has no cover left available, that means he has to decide whether to risk certain players or hold them back.
That decision is made harder by the fact that the Austrian doesn't know at the start of the game whether he will have to put out a side at the weekend, if Saints beat the Shrews then they will play Arsenal in the FA Cup, if they lose then initially at least they will have a spare Saturday, but the likelihood is that the Premier League will reschedule the trip to Leeds United, a game that was postponed from tomorrow evening to fit this FA cup game into the schedule.
The real issue is that a good side has a strong spine and Saints were missing that spine, of the four players who most Saints fans would consider the contenders for player of the season, only James Ward Prowse will probably play, the other three, Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu & Danny Ings were missing for the defeat at Leicester and all are likely to be out again tonight.
Most Premier League teams could not cope with losing their 3 most influential players, Saints have done well to cope without at least two of them sometimes all three over the past month.
In goal I would suspect that Fraser Forster might play, Alex McCarthy is only just back from a bout of Covid 19 and Forster needs game time.
In defence he has Kyle Walker-Peters, Yan Valery, Ryan Bertrand, David Agbontohoma, Jake Vokins, Jan Bednarek, Jack Stephens, Kayne Ramsay & Allan Tchaptchet to select from.
At full back he has two choices for each position, on the right side he could play either first choice Kyle Walker Peters or Yan Valery, but I have a feeling that he might play both, with Valery being employed in a right sided midfield role as he was in the latter part of the win over Liverpool.
In the centre literally the only fit central defenders he has are Bednarek & Stephens, if one of them were to be injured it would be a catastrophe in that Jannik Vestergaard is still several weeks from full fitness and there do not seem to be any youngsters knocking on the door just yet.
A surprise inclusion may be 19 year old Allan Tchaptchet, the French centre back has played for the B team and could be handed a debut alongside either Stephens or Bednarek.
The other option is David Agbontohoma, also 19 he too has played for the B team.
On the left side with Jake Vokins being needed to play for the suspended Ryan Bertrand in the next Premier League game played I would expect him to reprise the role he played in the 3rd round last year when Huddersfield were despatched, hopefully he can reprise the superb goal he scored.
In midfield Ralph has a relative luxury compared to the defence, he could play a strong midfield 4 of Ibrahima Diallo, James Ward-Prowse, Theo Walcott & Stuart Armstrong, but I suspect as I mentioned earlier that he will utilise Yan Valery on the right hand side, other than that the only other players are all from the Academy, Alex Jankewitz, Kegs Chauke, Caleb Watts, Lucas Defise & Pascal Kpohomough, I would be lying if I said I knew anything about them.
Up front there are options, Che Adams, Shane Long & Dan N'lundulu have all featured in the Premier League of late, but I have a feeling that it will be Adams rested and the experience of Long paired with the youth of N'Lundulu.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Danny Ings make an appearance on the bench for insurance purposes, but unless needed I wouldn't think he would play a part.
Whatever is the final decision in the starting line up, the bench will look more like the audience of 1970's children's show Crackerjack than a Premier League bench.
Shrewsbury will not have prepared well for this game, their Covid outbreak that knocked the heart out of their squad means that they haven't played since December 29th and they haven't had much time as a squad to train either, add to that manager Steve Cotterill went down with a serious dose of Covid 19 last Friday that hospitalised him and saw him in intensive care over the weekend and they possibly have a few more problems than we do.
Usually Ralph Hasenhuttl has looked for a good cup run, last season he put out strong sides, but tonight will be more mix and match than he would perhaps have liked, but he will see the cup as a realistic opportunity for glory and if he can get the side through tonight and the subsequent tie at the weekend with Arsenal, then he will have some respite and hopefully get some of those missing players back in action.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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