Norwich Away FA Cup 3rd Round Drew 2 – 2
There is a view that the timetable for the FA Cup (now the Emirates FA Cup, of course!) is the major obstacle to a winter break in the top echelons of English football. I’m still to be convinced of the need for such a break (although a fixture pile up has hit Saints more than most), as the top players manage to avoid playing in the doyen of national competitions anyway, with Forster amongst those dropping out of the tie at Norwich. The keeper would have missed out on EFL Cup action as well, but for the long term injury to McCarthy, but only now was Jack Lewis considered capable of stepping up as Saints also gave a first start to Stephens, again at full back. It looked a game that neither side (and neither set of supporters, judging by the crowd) wanted terribly much as the home side also made changes, resulting in a low key encounter after Long had missed a very early chance. The deadlock was broken on 38 minutes when a partially cleared corner was returned by Tadić for Van Dijk to volley home from an unmarked position at the far post. There was every confidence that that strike would prove enough, but after the break Van Dijk tested Lewis with a strong backpass that took a nasty couple of bounces, and a heavy touch by the keeper was compounded by an element of panic as he chased after Jerome and attempted a tackle from behind, allowing for Whittaker to equalise from the spot. Saints still looked to have a bit more class about them, and they soon retook the lead when Yoshida converted Højberg’s cross with a powerful header. And of course that should have been enough – as indeed it was until deep into added time when an innocuous throw-in situation near the corner resulted in a cross that was headed in by the inexplicably unmarked Naismith, giving a replay that could be part of a nine game January schedule for Southampton.
LSSC Man of the Match: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. As late as the 93rd minute, either Van Dijk or Yoshida looked certain to get the vote, but both centre backs must take responsibility for the unprofessional defending that presented the Canaries with their second equaliser.