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On This Day In 2018 - Saints Get To FA Cup Semi Final
Monday, 18th Mar 2024 09:12

Those complaining about the weather at the moment, should remember this day in 2018 when blizzards hit the country and covered it in snow and Southampton travelled to Wigan Athletic and covered themselves in glory.

The 18th of March 2018 was the end of a big week for Southampton FC, but it started badly, after Saints had been beaten 3-0 at Newcastle United and that had spelled the end for Mauricio Pellegrini who was sacked and replaced by Mark Hughes who was appointed on a contract to the end of the season.

Hughes had spent some time at the Dell as a player at the end of his playing career, but the time he spent there in the late 1990's playing 52 Premier League games for the club in the process was not a great time, the arrival of Glenn Hoddle as manager spelt the end of his time at the club and he left in March 2020.

So here he was back at Southampton this time as manager, in the meantime he had spent most of the previous 18 years as a manager, starting with the Welsh national team and then a number of high profile clubs, but in his 14 years as a club manager his stock was declining and each appointment seemed to see him drop a notch down the pecking order, indeed after he was sacked by Saints some 9 months later, his only other managerial job was at League 2 Bradford City in 2022, however that job would last only 18 months.

But he arrived at St Mary's with two jobs to do, the most important task was to keep Saints up, but the first one was to try and guide the club to an FA Cup semi final at Wembley.

In this respect he had a task that surely even Southampton sitting just one point above the Premier League relegation zone could handle, a trip to League 1 side Wigan Athletic.

Sunday 18th May 2018 though started with a problem for most of the 5,000 travelling fans, it had started snowing the day before and overnight it had turned the South Hampshire area and indeed most of the country white.

The roads were a nightmare and the rail services now in the usual chaos that bad weather brings.

Most of them managed to get up to Lancashire though and one end of the stadium was a wall of red & white.

Wigan though were in no mood to let their chance of glory go easily, they matched Saints in the first half and created a number of chances and Saints could count themselves lucky not to go in at the break a goal down.

In the second half we got a little more organised and imposed ourselves on the game and started to show a little Premier League class, on the hour mark came the breakthrough, Pierre Emille Hojbjerg firing home after seeing his header initially blocked,.

That put Saints in charge and it should have been 2-0 but Manolo Gabbiadini saw his penalty given after he himself was fouled saved, that gave Wigan hope and after failing to put the game to bed, the home side launched a late challenge and in the dying minutes Jack Stephens, the only player still at St Mary's 6 years later, had to head over his own bar to prevent an equaliser.

But a minute into injury time Saints got the 2nd they had been threatening to do for the last half hour, Cedric Soares scoring his first goal for the club, joining Hojbjerg who had also got his debut goal for the club earlier.

This meant that Saints fans could finally celebrate and not worry about a late equaliser, the reality was hitting home, despite all the woes in the League, they were at Wembley for an FA Cup semi final.

Mark Hughes had started his managerial career at his former club well, there are not many clubs who have sacked their manager just days before an FA Cup quarter final and there were those that thought Pellegrini had been a knee jerk reaction sacking, yes Saints were hovering just above the relegation zone and the Newcastle defeat had been poor, but there was a feeling that he might have turned a corner before that.

In the previous 10 matches ahead of that defeat at St James Park, Saints had lost just one game in the League & FA Cup, that being a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, in those 7 games played in the League, only 1 had been won with 4 draws, but we were keeping our head above water.

Mark Hughes as we now know would not quite be the saviour, he would lose his first 3 Premier League games in charge, but his team found some strength in the final games and Saints would avoid the drop, but it could be said that was despite Hughes and not because of him, his record in his 8 Premier League games in charge, was won 2, drawn 2 and lost 4, in terms of points per game, no better than Pellegrini's in his final spell.

Photo: Action Images

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