After a 41-day layoff due to the World Cup break, Saints made a triumphant return to action on Tuesday night, as a brace from Che Adams saw them come from behind to beat Lincoln City and book their place in the League Cup quarter-finals. finals.
The occasion also saw Nathan Jones’ first home game and the former Luton boss was not interested in taking any chances, opting for a full-strength starting XI but reverting to a five-a-side defense system ahead of Gavin Bazuno in goal.
Lyanco started alongside Armel Bella-Kotchap and Mohammed Salisu in a trio of centre-backs, with Kyle Walker-Peters starting for the first time since October after recovering from a hamstring injury. Romain Peraud got the nod from Walker-Peters with James Ward-Prowse, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Moi Eleonossi shoring up the midfield.
There were no starting opportunities for young pilots Samuel Idozi and Sekou Mara, with Che Adams and Adam Armstrong’s experience preferred at the front.
Despite the strength of the team on paper, it was the visitors of League One who scored the first strike in a strange way after less than two minutes.
A corner was only partially cleared by Maitland-Niles who missed it towards goal as Bazuno’s desperate punch under pressure could only send the ball into the back of the net.
Confusion reigned as the referee initially appeared to raise his hand for offside before pointing to goal – giving Jones and his new team a rogue comeback.
It took until the 17th minute from an agonizingly slow start for the Saints to muster their first shot, and El Ouanosi fired a wide effort from outside the penalty area.
Adams then had a great chance to equalize after a deft flick from Armstrong sent him into the goal but the Scotland international saw his effort save.
Fortunately, the Saints didn’t have to dwell on this missed opportunity as long as Adams scored his goal moments later, heading in from Elionossi’s perfect pass to make it 1-1.
And while Saints began to control the proceedings after the equaliser, it was Lincoln who had the clearest chance to break the deadlock before half-time – Vernam fired close to Bazunu after being found by clever defending running free in the penalty area.
Jones made his first change of the first half, Duje Caleta-Car replacing Bella-Kotchap, but his side struggled to build any momentum which forced the Saints manager back to the bench for a triple change after the hour mark with Samuel Edozie, Stuart Armstrong, and Theo Walcott. ) they entered the battle.
The change seemed to work – to some extent – as Elyounoussi headed over the crossbar soon after, before Armstrong unleashed an understeered drive just wide of the goal.
The mounting pressure finally paid off with 15 minutes left in the game when Lincoln failed to clear a cross, allowing Adams the space and time to take home for the second time in the game.
The Saints had a chance to finish joyously deep in injury time when Edouzi was presented with an open goal but somehow failed to find the target. Not that the Saints held out for their ticket to the League Cup quarter-finals.
Saints: Bazono. Walker Peters (Iduzzi, 62), Bella Kochab (Kalita Karr, 46), Linko, Salisu (Armstrong, 62), Peraud; Ward Bruce, Maitland-Niles, Al-Younossi; Adams, Armstrong (Walcott, 62 (Djinbo, 77))
Subs not used: Diallo, Aribou, Mara, McCarthy (g/k).
Lincoln City: Rushworth, Poole, Jackson, Sanders, Vernam, O’Connor, Walsh (Garrick, 86), House (Hooper, 71), Mandrew (Bishop, 75), Rogan, Virtue
Unused subs: Oakley Booth, Robson, Sorenson, Iuma, Wright (g/k)
Referee: Jared Gillett.
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