The latest part of Southampton's road trip stretching from Sunday to this Saturday brought a second successive away win, which was less spectacular and at the same time more straightforward than the one against Manchester United at the weekend. Once again they restricted the home side to almost no significant chances, Ipswich, third in the Championship, failing in disappointing manner to live up to their reputation as serious contenders to join them in the big league next season.
There was little of the “defiance and belligerence” that Mick McCarthy had hailed after they held on for a draw in the first game at St Mary's and having an early strike disallowed for offside seemed to deflate rather than inspire them. McCarthy had said he did not want a replay and in that respect at least was granted his wish.
Shane Long's goal in the first half means that in the fourth round Southampton will be at home to Crystal Palace, whom they beat 3-1 at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day to complete the downfall of Neil Warnock, sacked within 24 hours of that game.
Unlike his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino last season, Ronald Koeman has regularly fielded strong sides in both domestic cup competitions. Despite this tie being one of three away games in seven days, involving more than 1,400 miles' travel, he did so again, making five changes although three were enforced by the absence of Toby Alderweireld and Morgan Schneiderlin, both injured in the victory at Old Trafford on Sunday, plus Eljero Elia, who was ineligible. The bad news for them is that the influential Schneiderlin will be out for two or three weeks with an adductor problem, missing Saturday's visit to Newcastle on the latest section of the tour of the English counties.
Koeman sensibly kept striker Graziano Pelle and Steven Davis in reserve, although neither must have felt they would be required as their team established a period of superiority on either side of Long's goal. In fact, Davis was brought on at half-time, Victor Wanyama having added to Koeman's injury problems just before the interval; and Pelle was summoned midway through the second half to no great effect.
Ipswich shook up the side that suffered a first defeat in 13 games at the weekend, with four changes, but part of the reason for that was that they had been depleted by a virus that kept out midfielders Cole Skuse and Teddy Bishop, while confining the highly regarded Tyrone Mings initially to the substitutes' bench.
An impressively large crowd had gathered, given that the game was live on the BBC, and optimism was generated among the home majority in the sixth minute when Stephen Hunt ran onto Kevin Bru's pass and beat Fraser Forster, only to see the referee's assistant rightly raise his flag for a narrow offside decision. The move showed that Southampton's back three was fallible but Darren Ambrose's speculative long drive flying much too high, was more indicative of Ipswich's early efforts.
For a while the home team's young midfield was in danger of being being overrun and a goal duly arrived in the 19th minute. After good build-up play on the right by Nathaniel Clyne and a neat touch by Dusain Tadic, Luke Chambers the Ipswich captain did well to slide in on James Ward-Prowse but only steered the ball straight to Long, who netted comfortably. It was his first goal since coming on to score twice as a substitute at home to Leicester in November.
That was the Premier League's side only shot on target - which at the interval was still one more than their opponents, for whom David McGoldrick's effort in added time at the end of the first half was as wild as Ambrose's earlier on.
McCarthy made his first change less than ten minutes into the second half and was almost rewarded immediately. Mings, a former Southampton youngster, replaced Hunt and did well to cross for Ambrose, whose header was weak but on target at least.
Mings' arrival allowed Ipswich to match up with Southampton's wing-backs, while Ambrose, scorer of their goal in the original 1-1 draw, moved to a more central position. With McGoldrick and leading scorer Daryl Murphy much quieter than at Championship level, however, they struggled to create any more chances of note.
The visitors, meanwhile, did little more than break out occasionally without further threat to Bartosz Bialkowski, even after Pelle appeared in place of Tadic. They needed only to keep defending in the same solid manner to extend the current run to seven games without defeat since mid-December, having recovered splendidly from five successive losses beforehand.
McCarthy rightly called the tie “a damp squib”. Koeman said: “We played with very good organisation. It was difficult, there were a lot of long balls and battles and we scored with our first chance. We kept another clean sheet and that is important. We were prepared for the game and we showed that.”
Man of the match Fonte.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee G Scott (Oxon).