The Premiership side were initially rescued by a penalty after a heroic performance by Barry Richardson had defied every attempt to cancel out Gareth Ainsworth's early strike. But after Jim Magilton had at last found a way past Lincoln's goalkeeper, Gordon Watson put Southampton ahead with extra time five minutes away, and Eyal Berkovitch made the victory safe in injury time.
Consolation for Lincoln comes in the shape of a substantial pay cheque - by Third Division standards at any rate - their progress to this stage reckoned to be worth pounds 150,000 after an 11,000 full house last night. Not that they were willing to settle for that after the unlikely achievement of pitching out Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate in the second round and going into last night's match on the back of four consecutive League wins following the 2-2 draw at The Dell three weeks ago.
It was also a vulnerable Southampton they took on, one whose new influx of foreign talent is still bedding in, notwithstanding their demolition of Manchester United in what has been the shock result of the Premiership season thus far. Perfect circumstances, it seemed, for John Beck to unleash the unsettling, no-nonsense tactics for which, as manager of Cambridge and Preston, he gained notoriety.
Last night they brought an almost instant pay-off, Ainsworth forcing the ball home after Gijsbert Bos, Beck's towering Dutch centre-forward, had flicked on a long throw in what was a clearly well-rehearsed move. Bos almost added a second with a powerful header but Chris Woods saved superbly.
Despite the set-back, South- ampton regained their composure quickly and, crucially, retained their patience even after a first half of frustration. Rich- ardson, who cost Beck a mere pounds 20,000 to bring with him from Preston, kept out one attempt after another, gaining in confidence with each save, culmi- nating in a brilliant effort to push a curling, trade-mark free-kick by Matt Le Tissier over the bar, shortly before the England man withdrew with a damaged ankle.
There was nothing Richardson could do, however, to prevent Magilton scoring from the spot after Egil Ostenstad had been tripped by Jason Barnett. The Lincoln bench felt the penalty decision was questionable but, on the other hand, Southampton's unflustered passing game deserved reward.
With five minutes left, Berkovitch, Southampton's most influential player, broke away on the right and fed the ball to Watson, who had time to steady himself before tucking a shot into the corner. In injury time, Berkovitch took aim from 25 yards and gained himself a reward.
Lincoln City (4-4-2): Richardson; Barnett, G Brown, Austin, Whitney; Ainsworth, Hone (Minnett, 88), Fleming, Alcide; Martin (S Brown, 60), Bos. Substitute not used: Sterling.
Southampton (3-4-1-2): Woods: Monkou, Lundekvam, Dryden (Slater, 57); Van Gobbel; Dodd, Magilton, Charlton; Berkovitch; Le Tissier (Watson, 65), Ostenstad. Substitute not used: Neilson.
Referee: T Heilbron (Co Durham).Reuse content