Coventry FA Cup 4th Round Home Won 2 – 1 AET
Ralph has a pleasing record of taking the F.A. Cup seriously – he’s even taken us to a semi-final. So why the ten changes to his starting line-up as Coventry came to town? My explanation is that he was swayed by the ease with which a much stronger team were coping with similarly ranked opponents in the last round, at whilst there were still eleven of them on the pitch. In other words, he underestimated Cov, and we know where that leads. His wing back formation didn’t help either, with the returning Livramento and debutant Small unconvincing in their roles. Small had neither reputation nor confidence to help him out, and Coventry’s lively right wing man, Eccles, did his best to exploit the situation, forcing a full length save from Caballero. If you go back far enough, Small giving the ball away cheaply was the cause of a not unexpected Coventry goal, eventually neatly finished by Gyökeres. Saints moved to a back four when Lyanco limped out of the game, and Small’s unhappy time came to an end at half time, as did the ineffective contribution of Adam Armstrong, who had been struggling in his deep lying role. Things may have been getting better, but it still took until 63 minutes before we were back on level terms, Premier League class displayed by sub Stuart Armstrong with a swerving right foot shot that gave Moore no chance. Valery started in the middle of defence but was now at full back, from where a poor back pass presented Waghorn with a fluffed chance; when Livramento was risked no more, Valery was back to centre back and had the referee chosen to penalise a clear push in the back, a second yellow card would have meant two early baths in two rounds. As it was, another full back, and another half time substitution, Walker-Peters, was to break the deadlock midway through the second period of extra time, cutting inside onto his favoured right foot for a shot that needed a deflection to find the corner. Not long to hold out against Championship opposition, but it was a close thing. Sub Waghorn, who had come on to force penalties on his last visit to St. Mary’s, headed just wide, thanks to the close attentions of Ward-Prowse. Even later, Caballero became an unlikely hero, saving twice from Gyökeres before Kane put the ball into the empty net: alas for him, and for the visiting fan who ran onto the pitch, Kane had been unable to resist the temptation to stray offside.
LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse. As at Swansea, Cup rules meant that there weren’t too many other outfielders who lasted the full two hours. His most vital contribution came near the end of his stint, by then operating at right back.