Saints earned themselves a place in the last 16 of the League Cup with a 2-1 win over Preston. Nigel Adkins employed the same 4-2-3-1 formation that was used in the previous round against Swindon. This time Steve De Ridder started on the right hand side of midfield, with debutant Ben Reeves in the middle behind Jonathan Forte and Lee Holmes back on the left. The front four interchanged positions throughout the night however, with De Ridder playing up front in place of Forte at one point. Saints enjoyed plenty of possession in the first 25 minutes, but there was little in the way of chances for either team. The hosts opened the scoring on 27 minutes when Holmes's corner was flicked on by Reeves to Jos Hooiveld, who headed in from close range. Saints biggest attacking threat in the first half came from wide areas, with De Ridder looking particularly dangerous. Preston had two players booked for holding back the quick Belgian winger. Before the break Reeves saw a shot fly just wide, while the visitors had a free kick tipped over by Bart Bialkowski.
Preston came out refreshed in the second period, and were on top in the early stages. They levelled the tie on 52 minutes when Darel Russell's long range effort was parried straight out to Adam Barton, who bundled the ball into the net. My season ticket seat was unavailable tonight, so I took the opportunity to view the game from the centre of the Itchen stand. Behind me Chairman Nicola Cortese spent much of the second half in discussion with Under 21 boss Martin Hunter, who had a number of players involved in the squad. In front of me assistant manager Andy Crosby went through a thick black folder full of illustrated tactical information with each substitute. Whatever the instructions were they clearly worked, as Adam Lallana put Saints back in front almost instantly after coming on, heading in from a Holmes cross. Preston pumped high balls into the box in the closing minutes of the game, but couldn't find a way past a solid back line. The home side played with less fluency towards the end, but did go close to adding a third when Lallana fired just over.
Another enjoyable night at St Marys, with a new look side putting in a decent display. Saints showed their strength in depth, making 10 changes from Sunday's win against Birmingham. The only survivor from that game was Jos Hooiveld, who is starting to look like someone who can have a real impact at the club. Elsewhere the likes of Steve De Ridder and Lee Holmes continue to impress in rare starts. The fact we included youth teamers Ben Reeves, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw in the squad tonight shows what great options we have in all areas of the club at the moment. Saints are now just two wins away from the semi-finals. If we get lucky in the next round of the draw, who's to say how far we can go in this tournament?
Attendance: 7,414 (163 Preston fans)
Bialkowski: 5. Looked shaky all night. Flapped at a few crosses, and kicking was poor.
Butterfield: 6. Lack of recent match practise showed tonight, sluggish performance. On the plus side, showed good leadership qualities by constantly talking to teammates.
Hooiveld: 8. By far his best showing in a Saints shirt so far. Handled the defensive side of the game with ease, and also made some good forward runs and passes.
Martin: 6. Slightly unconvincing defensively. Kept it simple in possession.
Dickson: 6. Got better as the game went on, but like Butterfield looked slightly rusty.
Chaplow: 7. Showed what his former club was missing.
Schneiderlin: 7. Comfortable on the ball as you would expect
De Ridder: 8. Preston struggled to cope with his mazy runs in the first half
Reeves: 7. Solid debut. Saw plenty of the ball and got into some good attacking positions. Faded slightly towards the end
Holmes: 8. Some excellent crosses. Worked very hard.
Forte: 7. Good hold up play. Pace allowed him to win a number of balls that seemed out of reach
Lallana: 7. Grabbed a goal immediately after coming on. Added a bit more energy with some great forward runs
Fonte: 6. Passing surprisingly poor tonight. Defended well though.
Lambert: Didn't have enough time to make much of an impact on the game.