After an intense FA Cup third-round replay Derby County beat Southampton 5-3 penalties after drawing 2-2 in normal time at the St Mary’s Stadium.
The Rams thought they went ahead on the stroke of half-time after Craig Bryson struck coolly past Angus Gunn, but Anthony Taylor chalked off the goal upon consultation with VAR after Martyn Waghorn was spotted in an offside position.
And so, both sides entered the interval level, but Southampton came out in the second-half with more intent. Stuart Armstrong opened the scoring after nodding home from just a few yards out, and just over two minutes later the Saints would find themselves two up after Nathan Redmond raced through on goal and chipped Kelle Roos.
The Rams came from two down in the reverse fixture and they looked to repeat that feat tonight after Harry Wilson first curled a delectable left-footed strike on the 76th minute, and Waghorn completed the turnaround moments later with a bullet header.
The match finished 2-2 and entered extra-time but 120 minutes failed to separate the sides and headed for a penalty shoot-out, which saw Derby tuck home all their spot-kicks and knock out the Premier League side.
And so with Derby through to the fourth-round of the competition to face Accrington Stanley, what did we learn?
1. A future England midfield partnership?
One of Southampton’s star players tonight was the prodigiously talented but often inconsistent James Ward-Prowse, who once showed vast promise when he first exploded onto the scene six years ago, but he has really failed to kick on and become the insatiable midfielder many tipped him to become.
The diminutive playmaker has been a solid performer over the years but for a player who possesses all the technical attributes to become a world class talent, the one-time England international hasn’t fulfilled that extraordinary potential.
Lining up in a similar position for Derby tonight was Mason Mount who played an equally influential role in the heart of midfield for his club. The Chelsea loanee has been one of the fulcrums of Frank Lampard’s early success and has even received an England call-up this season as a result.
The recognition he received from Gareth Southgate, despite being in the second-tier, is testament to his patent ability, and having just turned 20, the future certainly looks bright for a midfielder who received Vitesse’s Player of the Year last season at 19.
Ward-Prowse looks revitalised under Ralph Hasenhuttl, which could be the catalyst for the 24-year-old to really push on, and who knows, if both players continue their form of late, we could yet see and all Portsmouth-born central midfield for England in the near future.
2. The Long struggle
Shane Long has struggled immensely in front of goal over the past few seasons and he only managed to net his first goal of the season at the weekend, scoring the winner in a crucial match against Leicester City, which ended a barren run of 24 matches across all competitions for club and country.
Depressingly for Saints fans his last four goals have all come under the auspices of different managers, showing just how volatile the Hampshire club have been in recent times, and the Republic of Ireland international had a real chance to net in consecutive games tonight, but fluffed his lines.
The 31-year-old has not scored in back-to-back games since the 2015/16 season when he fired past Aston Villa and Man City in the Premier League, and what an opportunity he had tonight to rectify that statistic.
In the early exchanges Derby looked the more likely to break the deadlock, but a teasing Tyreke Johnson cross from the left set up Long who, from just a few yards out, looked destined to find the back of the net. However, his shot was directed straight into the path of Roos and the score remained 0-0.
He had another gaping opportunity in the second-half but his header was cleared off the line – although Armstrong scored the resulting clearance – before being hooked by Hasenhuttl.
3. Smallest of margins
With the match heavily poised heading towards the dying embers of the first-half, midfield stalwart Bryson thought he had put his side one to the good, but his goal was subsequently ruled out after forward Waghorn was shown to have been in an offside position by VAR in the build-up to the goal.
From a distance the 28-year-old looked to have been level with Jannik Vestergaard, but on a closer inspection the Geordie’s right leg was marginally in front of the Danes’, and the opening goal was correctly disallowed.
38′ | 😑 @CBryson44 finds the net after a lovely move, but after a lengthy VAR check, it’s disallowed for offside.
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) January 16, 2019
Although rightly called, the decision was met by some derision by Danny Murphy who was on commentary duty for the BBC for tonight’s fixture, with the former England international believing the decision took too long to be made which ultimately disrupted the flow of the match.
While this may be the case, English football is still getting to grips with the technology, and the correct decision was ultimately made which is certainly a promising sign for its future introduction to the Premier League.
4. Reinvigorated Redmond
The Saints lacked pace and precision in the first-half with Long, Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi failing to really expose the Derby defence, but the tide changed after the restart with the introduction of Redmond.
Southampton were unbeaten in three matches prior to tonight, and that has largely been down to the exploits of the incisive winger, who looks rejuvenated under the guidance of Hasenhuttl, and Lampard will be glad to see the back of him after he netted three goals against his side in the two fixtures.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) January 16, 2019
Redmond is another, like Ward-Prowse, who possesses bags of potential, and ability, but has failed to really kick on and become the elite-level performer many believed he would become, but the early signs under the tutelage of the ‘Klopp of the Alps’ look promising.
The 24-year-old transformed Southampton’s style of play upon his introduction and gave his side real impetus as they fired two in the second-half; his own strike was a delightful dink over Roos to double the host’s advantage – his penalty miss was a blemish on an otherwise brilliant evening.
5. Wonderful Wilson
Wilson has made a name for himself at Pride Park as something of a set-piece specialist, and he certainly backed that hype in tonight’s fixture, curling a crisp left-footed strike beyond the reach of Gunn in the second-half.
The Welshman’s goal was his eighth of the season across all competitions from outside the box, which is incredibly at least twice as many as any other player in the top four tiers of England football this campaign.
8 – Harry Wilson has scored eight goals from outside the box for Derby County in all competitions this season, at least twice as many as any other player in the top four tiers of English football in 2018-19. Specialist. #FACup #SOUDER pic.twitter.com/DcLtuWBdGg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 16, 2019
The Liverpool loanee rose to prominence and really announced his deadball name earlier on in the season after firing home a brilliantly executed free-kick in Derby’s League Cup third-round win over Manchester United.
Since then Wilson has been scoring free-kicks as well as long-range goals for both club and country at a growing rate, which has sparked some rumours of a Liverpool recall this winter window, though the 21-year-old is reportedly set to see out his Derby contract.