Flounderers at the deep end of the Premiership may well be Southampton's fate at the moment but in this Cup-tie it was Northampton who were out of their depth. The League Two team, riding high in the table though they are, could never contain the skills and experience of Kevin Phillips, the flicks of the towering Peter Crouch or match the midfield solidity of Southampton.
The win was Harry Redknapp's first in seven games as manager, and he was chuffed. "There are no easy games in this round of the Cup," he said. "Look at today's other results. I have had enough of these sort of matches in my life. They raise their game, these teams. And when they came back to 1-1 it was game on."
Only briefly, however. Southampton had run things until that equaliser by Lee Williamson, his first goal for Northampton, and it did not take long for control to be reimposed. A home defence which did not benefit from the nervousness of Lee Harper in goal could never come to terms with Phillips, and they received a sharp reminder of the difference in class with only 30 seconds gone when David Prutton crossed to Phillips to volley over the bar.
Trevor Benjamin, on loan from Leicester, could have put Northampton in front but dragged his shot wide when offered time to settle on the ball and when Claus Lundekvam let a long ball run through to Antti Niemi, the home side's leading scorer Scott McGleish, showed his predatory instincts by almost beating the keeper to the ball.
It took Southampton almost half an hour to breach Northampton with a three-move goal. Lundekvam pumped a long ball into the box, Crouch rose to nod it down and Phillips slammed it in. The home fans' dismay lasted no more than a minute before Williamson robbed Crouch in the centre circle, raced downfield and decided to try his luck from 30 yards. From that distance Niemi should not have been beaten by the bouncing ball.
There was one more scare for Southampton before they took control, Niemi repelling with his fists a Josh Low thump. As play switched upfield Phillips sent Crouch clear with a glorious through pass for a simple finish. This provoked a hectic five minutes before the interval in which a McGleish header was turned for a corner, a Phillips piledriver was blocked by Harper and Crouch saw the yellow card for kicking the ball away.
Southampton wrapped things up in the 53rd minute with another swiftly worked goal. A Northampton corner was cleared out to Prutton, whose superb long pass sent Phillips scampering away once more. He stayed on his feet when Luke Chambers fouled him crudely and slid the ball back for Jamie Redknapp to score emphatically.
Soon after Redknapp Snr removed Redknapp Jnr to a chorus from the visiting fans of: "There's only two Mr Redknapps."
The margin could have been wider, Crouch and Phillips seeing goal-bound shots blocked and Tommy Jaszczun clearing from the line when Harper spilled Rory Delap's long throw. But Northampton kept plugging away gamely and the substitute, Eric Sabin, saw Niemi make a plunging stop from his close-range header.
Redknapp Snr, while happy with the win, confirmed: "The main priority is to stay in the league. That's what we have got to do."
As for Northampton, it is back to bread and butter football with a League visit to Grimsby on Tuesday.Reuse content