27/08/2013: Barnsley 1-5 Saints
Saints eased into the Third Round of the League Cup with a 5-1 thumping of Barnsley. The game was as comfortable for Mauricio Pochettino's side as the scoreline suggests. Saints played within themselves at times, but never looked in danger, even when Barnsley pulled it back to 2-1.
Pochettino made nine changes to the starting line-up. Jose Fonte and Jay Rodriguez were the only survivors from Saturday's 1-1 draw with Sunderland. Jack Cork and Steven Davis came into the midfield, with Lloyd Isgrove, Gaston Ramirez and Jay Rodriguez lining up behind lone front-man Emmanuel Mayuka.
Saints should have been ahead inside the first minute. Ramirez found himself in plenty of space in the box, only to miss his one-on-one with Mike Pollitt. The away side's superior quality shone through very early on. Saints looked good on the ball, playing it out from the back and dominating possession in the final third. Barnsley only occasionally threatened with speculative long range efforts. Marcus Pedersen fired wide on 18 minutes. Full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Fox were given a lot of room to drive forward down the flanks. Fox crossed for Ramirez, who saw his header deflected wide. Saints netted their first of the evening on 26. Davis combined with Isgrove in the penalty area, with the former smashing low into the far post. Saints had so much of the ball in the Barnsley half during the first 45, but didn't create as many chances as they probably should have. The movement of the front four was sometimes a bit static. Cork hit the side netting at the end of a brilliant one-touch sequence. On 38 minutes Rodriguez had a long shot parried by Pollitt. Saints got a tad complacent just before the break, with the home side coming back into it slightly. Barnsley were occasionally successful when playing a bit more direct. Former Saint Jacob Mellis blasted wide of Kelvin Davis' near post.
Pochettino made a few changes at half-time, with Rodriguez moving up top. Isgrove switched from right to left, with Mayuka operating on the other side. The tactical reshuffle was a success, with Saints finding a lot more space going forward. Rodriguez beat the offside trap immediately after the re-start, only to see his cutback intercepted and cleared. He quickly made amends, curling the ball in from the edge of the area on 49. Rodriguez was on fire, and came agonisingly close to adding to his tally minutes later, hitting the post from a near identical position. Barnsley pulled one back on 53 minutes. The goal came completely out of nowhere, with Saints having dominated the second-half. Stephen Dawson was given time and space to beat Davis from distance. Barnsley were boosted briefly, but Saints always looked in control. The Tykes had one threatening goal mouth scramble, but otherwise didn't offer much. Saints upped the intensity, and began to create chance after chance. Davis fed Mayuka, whose low shot was far too close to the keeper. Ramirez's free-kick was then deflected just over. Saints put the game beyond reach of their opponents on 66. Mayuka turned his man on the edge of the box, before brilliantly finishing into the top corner. The visitors continued to steam forward during the last 20 minutes. Youngsters Omar Rowe, Harrison Reed and Jake Sinclair were all handed debuts. Rowe came close to scoring, twice testing Pollitt. Reed looked like he had been playing for years. On 89 minutes Mayuka was hacked down in the box. Steven Davis stepped up to score his second of the night. There was still time for one more. Ramirez hooked on to Davis' pass, before cleverly nipping the ball past Pollitt from close range.
A thoroughly enjoyable night of football. It's often tough to get the balance right in terms of team selection in these games, but on this occasion Pochettino got it spot on. He rested most of his key men, but still put out a side strong enough to get through the game. Three 18 year olds were handed debuts too, underlining the strength of our youth setup. Saints should continue to take this competition seriously. We have the strength in depth and quality to go far.
Davis: 6. Didn't have a lot to do apart from the goal, but made a couple of half decent stops here and there.
Clyne: 7. Barely put a foot wrong. Alert at the back and threatening going forward
Fonte: 7. One of the easiest games he is ever likely to play. Made a number of good forward runs with the ball
Yoshida: 7. Distribution a tad lax early on, but soon settled down, bringing his usual air of calm to the back-line
Fox: 7. An excellent range of passing. Looked decent at both ends of the pitch
Davis: 8. A very tidy display. Constantly finding gaps in midfield. Leadership qualities shone through
Cork: 7. Nice to see him back in the starting eleven. Helped Saints to control the game
Isgrove: 6. Struggled to get into the game in the first half, but much better after the break following the switch to the left. Won a couple of corners with some determined wing work
Ramirez: 7. Started slowly, but very much in his element in the second half. Caused all sorts of problems with his skill and movement.
Rodriguez: 8. Displayed some unbelievable footwork throughout
Mayuka: 6. Looked off the pace for the first hour, but took his goal very well and looked good after that.
Rowe: 6. A solid debut. Not afraid to run at players. Unlucky not to score.
Reed: A very assured first outing. Knew exactly where he should be on the pitch, and stroked the ball about well
Sinclair: First appearance for the senior side and the second game in as many days following Monday's U21 fixture at Reading.
Barnsley - Dawson (53)
Saints - Davis (26, pen 89) Rodriguez (49) Mayuka (66) Ramirez (90)
Attendance: 6,574 (695 Saints fans)
Referee: Scott Duncan
Barnsley: Pollitt, Wiseman, McNulty, Kennedy (Dagnall 55), Golbourne, O'Brien, Dawson, Mellis, Etuhu (Cywka 66), O'Grady, Pedersen (Scotland 55)
Subs not used: Steele, Jennings, Noble-Lazarus, McCourt
Saints: K Davis Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Fox, Cork, S Davis, Ramirez, Isgrove (Rowe 72), Mayuka (Sinclair 90), Rodriguez (Reed 80)
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Ward-Prowse, Chambers, Stephens