It was very much a game of two halves for Burnley at St. Mary's yesterday. We trailed 2-0 at the interval after a first half where precious little happened but then fought back in an exhilarating second half and this is when we might just have gone past pulling those goals back and won it.
In the end it was the Premier League club, who fielded nine of the players who started their previous game against Chelsea, who went through, but they will know full well how close they came to being the losers.
The journey south yesterday showed that once again we'd missed most of the bad weather that's hit the country in the last few days. The further south we went the more evidence there was that they'd been hit much more by the heavy rain, something I find quite amusing, particularly given that it suddenly becomes a national crisis when it the bad weather hits down there.
|Sam Vokes scored one and forced Kelvin Davis to make a brilliant save|
There was to be plenty more rain during the few hours we were in Southampton but thankfully, for us brave northerners, it held off while we walked from ground to pub and back again ahead of the game.
Sean Dyche had said he would not rest players and he was true to his word. Only Michael Duff and Ben Mee were missing from the team that had beaten Huddersfield on New Year's Day. Both were ruled out with injury with Kevin Long and Danny Lafferty coming in as replacements.
Michael Kightly has a slight knee problem so there were three places up for grabs on the bench. Luke O'Neill, just returned from a loan at York, took one of them with the other two places going to Cameron Dummigan and Steven Hewitt, both of whom had played well again in the recent Under-21 win against Bolton.
We almost made a dream start to the tie when David Jones got the ball to Scott Arfield who was very close to finding the net with a shot. We had a couple more efforts too in those early minutes of the game as we looked to grab the initiative.
Unfortunately, we couldn't get a goal and our early influence on the game soon disappeared with Southampton beginning to dominate possession, albeit with very little suggestion they were going to make too much of it.
They held the upper hand during a disappointing period of play and then lit the whole game up with two superb goals in a matter of minutes right in front of the travelling Burnley fans.
I have to say I was stunned with the first one. It was a superb strike from right back Nathaniel Clyne but it was the sheer surprise of the shot. Not for a minute was I expecting him to shoot but his effort flew in at the near post leaving Tom Heaton absolutely helpless.
If that was a good finish then maybe the second from Rickie Lambert was even better. After a good build up from the Saints he brilliantly hit a shot into the top corner from just outside the box.
I didn't think Southampton had done anything like enough to deserve to be two goals in front but when a team can score two goals of that quality there is precious little that can be done about it.
There was very little to enthuse about for the rest of the half. Heaton made a save from Luke Shaw but the shot was going wide in any case, and just before that Lambert was forced off with a dead leg and replaced by one of their strikers by the name of Jay Rodriguez.
It seems quite strange writing about the Burnley born England international playing against us, but he was definitely in red and was to play a significant part later in the game.
Suffice to say he received a warm reception from his own supporters and an even better one from the travelling Clarets who reminded him that he was, if not is, one of our own.
By half time the tie looked done and dusted. The score remained 2-0 and there had been little indication that we were going to get back into it.
I have no idea what was said in the dressing room at half time. I have no idea what any response might have been, but, unbeknown to the crowd, we were going to get ourselves an old fashioned traditional FA Cup tie in the second half for all to enthuse about.
Just six minutes in a link up between Kieran Trippier and Dean Marney led to a cross coming in from the right. It was Marney, not Trippier, who provided the cross and it was Sam Vokes who reached it to head across goalkeeper Kelvin Davis and into the far corner.
It was a good finish from our Southampton born striker but soon there was more to come. Six minutes later we cleared out lines with Long playing the ball down the right touchline. Danny Ings got onto it, got the better of Jos Hooiveld before coming into the box.
With no support able to get up it was all down to Ings and from the tightest of angles he beat Davis at this near post and as the ball hit the net the away end were on their feet hardly able to believe we'd got back into the tie at 2-2.
Less than 90 seconds later only Davis, who has had his difficult moments against Burnley over the years, prevented us going in front. Our front two linked brilliantly with Ings finally playing the ball over a defender into the path of Vokes.
Vokes played the ball twice before getting a shot away and it took a brilliant save from Davis to keep the home side level.
Suddenly this was a very different game. With 64 minutes gone we sent on Junior Stanislas for Treacy but unfortunately he'd been on the pitch for no more than two minutes when Southampton edged back in front.
It was the strangest of goals and from the far end it wasn't clear as to whether it had been given or not. Burnley seemed to be contesting it and no one was celebrating a goal. But referee Bobby Madley had given it and Jay Rod had scored it after Heaton lost possession. He wasn't going to celebrate but he home fans were.
I thought the Davis save from Vokes was very much a defining moment and there was soon another as Ings hit the foot of the post with a shot and this time with the goalkeeper beaten. A couple of inches and that would have been 3-3 but a minute later it was 4-2 as Mark Clattenburg's mate Adam Lallana, who had been sent on, scored a long ranger to just about end things for the Clarets.
To our credit we kept at it. Arfield gave a free kick away, the only one we conceded throughout the entire game, and with five minutes to go it was Ings' turn to force Davis into a save as he pushed it round his right hand post at the expense of a corner.
Stanislas took the corner and Long bundled it home from close range. His first Burnley goal had given us a glimmer of hope but it was not to be. Vokes had a shot saved but we weren't able to force a replay.
There was just time for Jay Rod to come down and applaud the Burnley fans sporting one of our shirts, and for us to reflect on our latest cup exit.
The reaction in the away end at the final whistle told the story. We all knew how well we'd played in that second half and if we can produce that sort of form in the league now then it is going to be one hell of a second half of the season for us.
Defeat it is, and no Burnley in this afternoon's cup draw, but we'll take some real heart from that second half against a very decent Premier League team.
The teams were;
Southampton: Kelvin Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld (Jose Fonte 79), Luke Shaw, Jack Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse, Gaston Ramirez (Adam Lallana 59), Rickie Lambert (Jay Rodriguez 35). Subs not used: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers, Harrison Reed, Sam Gallagher.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Kevin Long, Jason Shackell, Danny Lafferty, Keith Treacy (Junior Stanislas 64), Dean Marney, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Danny Ings, Sam Vokes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Luke O'Neill, Cameron Dummigan, David Edgar, Brian Stock, Steven Hewitt.
Referee: Bobby Madley (Ossett).
Attendance: 15,077 (including 845 Clarets).