28 January 2024

Southampton leave it late to earn FA Cup replay with Watford

28 January 2024

Watford and Southampton face a replay for a place in the FA Cup fifth round following a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road.

Saints substitute Stuart Armstrong struck late to force a replay after Matheus Martins’ early free-kick looked being just enough to take the Hornets through, with Liverpool awaiting in the next round.

Both sides made substantial changes to their most recent Championship starting line-ups – Watford swapped six, Southampton nine – and the visitors fell behind in the fifth minute.

Mason Holgate was booked for fouling Yaser Asprilla just outside the box on the left and Martins, the Brazilian winger, whipped the free-kick past a wall comprising of just one man and beyond goalkeeper Joe Lumley at his near post.

Carlos Alcarez forced Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann into his first save with a header soon after but Saints were back under pressure straight away.

Sekou Mara fouled Francisco Sierralta 25 yards in front of goal and this time it was ex-Saint Wesley Hoedt who took the free-kick, which the centre-back fired straight at Lumley.

Jayden Meghoma did well to stop Martins bursting through but Sierralta put a free header wide at the back post from the corner that followed.

Jamal Lewis was the next Hornet to test Lumley with a low drive from distance but the goalkeeper was fortunate when he rushed out of his box and was beaten to the ball by Vakoun Bayo only for the striker to fail to find a colleague in front of an untended goal.

Southampton rallied towards the end of the half, with Taylor Harwood-Bellis heading a decent chance over from a free-kick, but the half ended with Bayo firing wide at the other end following a defensive lapse.

The second period began with Alcarez sending a free-kick that resulted from a foul on Holgate over the bar. Holgate was soon required at the other end to stop Asprilla stealing in at the back post.

Mara fired a Saints reply at Bachmann before a Watford counter saw Martins’ effort deflected.

The visitors sent on four experienced campaigners just after the hour mark in Adam and Stuart Armstrong, Will Smallbone and Ryan Fraser.

Stuart Armstrong blasted an effort wide as Watford were forced to dig in for a while but Martins saw a 72nd-minute effort ping back off a post.

Saints pushed hard for a leveller, with Holgate forcing Bachmann into a flying save, but the Hornets goalkeeper was beaten with a minute remaining.

Bachmann batted out a drive from Mara but Stuart Armstrong seized on the rebound on the left of the box and foxed the Austrian with a curler inside the near post.

It was all Saints in added time, with Adam Armstrong seeing a shot deflected wide and Bachmann tipping a Harwood-Bellis header round a post.

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