28/01/2012: Millwall 1-1 Saints

Saints and Millwall will have to battle it out once more for a place in the 5th round of the FA Cup, following a 1-1 draw between the two teams at The Den. The visitors had led for much of the match, but Millwall's late pressure eventually paid off. It's Southampton's first FA Cup replay since 2005. Nigel Adkins named an unfamiliar line up for the game, with Jason Puncheon making his return to the side for the first time in over a year. The hosts made the early running, finding plenty of gaps in a shaky Saints defence. The dangerous Liam Feeney hit the post just a few minutes in. Harry Kane then fired over from close range, before Darius Henderson got in behind Danny Fox, only to have his shot tipped over the bar by Bartosz Bialkowski. The visitors somehow survived the early onslaught, and took the lead on 26 minutes with the best move of the match. Puncheon played in Ben Reeves, who put in a terrific through ball for Dan Harding, who got to the byline before crossing for Rickie Lambert to head in at the near post. It had been a very scrappy game up until that point, with both sides lacking any real fluency. Saints didn't have much variety to their play, and were often forced to go long. Adkins's men grew in confidence after the goal, and looked very comfortable going into the break.

The early stages of the second half were fairly quiet, with little in the way of clear cut opportunities. Saints perhaps should have had a penalty when both Lambert and Lee Barnard looked like they had been fouled inside the area. The visitors tired as the tie wore on, and spent the latter part of the game defending wave after wave of Millwall attack. Lee Holmes and Tadanari Lee were brought on just after the hour mark, to give Saints a fresh look in attack. Holmes really should have put the game to bed when he headed narrowly wide from close range. Bialkowski had done a great job keeping out The Lions for most of the match, but was finally beaten with just four minutes to spare. Darius Henderson got the better of Harding in a crowded penalty area, flicking the ball home from close range. Both sides pushed hard for a winner, but lacked quality in the final third.

A bit of a nothing game in all honesty. A replay is hardly ideal for either team, with the main focus on the league. On the plus side, it gives Nigel Adkins another chance to look at some of the fringe players, many of whom did very well today. Bialkowski looked more confident than he has done for a long time. The same can be said for Aaron Martin, who had what was arguably his best ever game in a Saints shirt. Jason Puncheon also looked incredibly hungry to impress. With Radhi Jaidi making an appearance on the bench, Saints now have more options in reserve, which could prove to be very important in the next three months.

Attendance: 8,278 (1,503 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Bialkowski: 7. Best game for a long time. Commanded his area well, and communicated with the defence.

Richardson: 7. Comfortable on the ball.

Martin: 7. Much improved display. Tackles were perfectly timed.

Fox: 6. Made a few errors which led to Millwall chances early on, but improved in the second half.

Harding: 6. Played a role in Lambert's goal, but could have perhaps done better in defending the Millwall equaliser.

De Ridder: 6. Didn't get on the ball anywhere near as much as he would have liked. Made a few decent runs, cutting inside from the wing.

Hammond: 6. Not at his absolute best today, but solid enough.

Reeves: 6. Didn't really impose himself on the game, but looked tidy in midfield

Puncheon: 7.An excellent comeback performance. Worked very hard, tracking back and defending, with a good first touch. Lack of match practise meant he tired a bit towards the end.

Lambert: 7. Makes all the difference having him back in the side. Gives the side such a great outlet in attack.

Barnard: 5. Struggled to make any sort of impact. Slightly isolated up front, was easily dealt with by the Millwall defence.

Substitutes:

Holmes: 5. Some decent wing play, but really should have scored.

Lee: 5. Looked quick, although he will take a while before he is on the same page with the rest of the team.

Shaw: Good to see another academy star being given a chance. Nearly had the chance to score within seconds of coming on, but the ball didn't quite fall for him.