Wigley's worries mount up as Saints hit new depths

Watford 5 - Southampton 2
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The Independent Football

Southampton are two places from bottom of the Premiership and last weekend their manager, Steve Wigley, said that this fourth-round League Cup tie was an unwanted distraction before the local derby with Portsmouth on Saturday. That was the only thing he got right as his side were deservedly thrashed last night. Even more upsetting for Wigley was that the margin could have been far worse.

Southampton are two places from bottom of the Premiership and last weekend their manager, Steve Wigley, said that this fourth-round League Cup tie was an unwanted distraction before the local derby with Portsmouth on Saturday. That was the only thing he got right as his side were deservedly thrashed last night. Even more upsetting for Wigley was that the margin could have been far worse.

Coming off a draw - a lucky one at that - at the weekend at home to West Bromwich Albion, playing Watford in the League Cup was far from the ideal distraction for Southampton's fight to climb away from the relegation zone. On league placings, the two sides are only 11 places apart after Watford's draw with Derby and it was clear that result had left the home side better prepared for this game.

The Saints were still without several key members of their first team, men such as James Beattie, Antti Niemi, Michael Svensson, Fabrice Fernandes and Graeme Le Saux.

Wigley was moved to complain about the difficulties he is facing with absentees such as that, but Watford, too, were without one key player, their top scorer, Danny Webber.

In his absence, Bruce Dyer has come in and he frightened Alan Blayney with a rising effort after 16 minutes. Blayney is Niemi's replacement, as the Finnish goalkeeper damaged his knee at the end of last week and has undergone surgery. It was only Blayney's fourth-ever Southampton game.

Several half-chances came and went the home side's way before Dyer opened the scoring five minutes before the interval. Neal Ardley swung in a free-kick and Dyer got between two defenders to head past Blayney, who had stayed on his line.

For the fit-again Kevin Phillips it was a chance to re-visit his first professional stamping ground, although the early signs did not augur well for a happy return to Vicarage Road for the striker.

The visitors had looked suspect against crosses all night long and such a ball was the source of Watford's second goal. From an Ardley corner, the ball was allowed to drift through the six-yard box and James Chambers beat Blayney from short range after 52 minutes.

Hitherto unregarded as a goal threat, Chambers scored his second-ever Watford goal 10 minutes later. Persistence by Dyer on the byline paid off and he cut the ball back for the midfielder to score.

The fourth goal - and best of the night - came four minutes later and was made in Iceland as Brynjar Gunnarsson found Heidar Helguson, whose volley curled around the helpless Blayney.

Two goals within 30 seconds preserved the margin. First, Dexter Blackstock got on the end of Leandre Griffit's cross with six minutes remaining and then Hameur Bouazza notched Watford's fifth.

Brett Ormerod's header two minutes from time was no added consolation for the visitors.

Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley, Cox (Demerit, 85), Dyche, Darlington; Chambers (Young, 72), Gunnarsson, Mahon, Ardley; Helguson, Dyer. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Fitzgerald, Bouazza.

Southampton (4-4-2): Blayney; Kenton (Van Damme, 64), Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Higginbotham; Nilsson (Griffit, h-t), Telfer, Delap, Svensson; Phillips (Blackstock, 64), Ormerod Substitutes not used: Poke (gk), Crouch.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington).

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