Southampton 2 Blackpool 0 - full match report

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AT least this defeat was fair and square, unlike the last time the Seasiders lost at the St Mary’s Stadium.

Trailing 1-0 in 2007, Pool thought they had equalised when Danny Coid’s 79th-minute cross was converted by Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Alas the referee blew for a foul on Coid just as Taylor-Fletcher nodded home.

The Seasiders duly lost and afterwards then boss Simon Grayson launched into a quite spectacular and not to mention highly entertaining tirade against the official.

“It’s a massive, massive error,” spat Grayson, who seldom got angry and so was therefore a sight to behold when he did lose his rag. Here, a bit like a lion who’d had a stick unexpectedly but firmly poked in his eye, he was frothing at the mouth so much that journalists had to take a step back to avoid getting drenched.

“The referee and the assessor have already told me they got it wrong. They said they didn’t expect the cross to stay in play and that’s why the ref blew.

“I responded by saying that we train everyday to make sure that crosses go into the box so don’t think that we are a pub team.

“Don’t think that just because we are Blackpool, we can’t keep the ball on the park. I am absolutely fuming”

Then he headed off to a dark room to repeatedly thump his head against a brick wall.

Happy days.

But here’s the thing. The referee that afternoon was a Mr Ian Williamson. Guess who the fourth official was on Saturday? Perhaps it was always destined to be one of those days.

Happily though the officials had nothing to do with this fourth consecutive FA third round exit for the Seasiders (Ipswich, Torquay, Barnsley ... the list is growing depressingly long).

Southampton were simply better on the day than a Blackpool team that aside from a decent spell at the start of the second half, never truly got going.

Obviously the nine changes didn’t bode well for a cohesive, flowing performance and go a long way to explaining the below-par display.

But by the same token, the home side brought in eight new players and still managed to produce a fine afternoon’s work.

So no excuses. Southampton were much the better team and thoroughly deserve to advance to the next round.

Under the excellent guidance of Nigel Adkins (how his old Scunthorpe side could have done with him at the weekend), they look a fine footballing outfit and will surely be a Championship outfit this time next year.

For Blackpool, the victim of a second giant-killing this season at the hands of a League One club (MK Dons did for them in the Carling Cup), they now have only the league to concentrate on.

Which, of course, is exactly how the manager wants it.

Rarely do you see a football boss look so relaxed after a 2-0 defeat.

That might not sit comfortably with all Blackpool fans, especially given the FA Cup history their club has.

But this is 2011. Times change and like it or not, Holloway is spot on: staying in the Premier League and the £40m it brings is way more important than a cup competition.

And the afternoon did have benefits.

For youth team lads Liam Tomsett, Tom Barkhuizen, Josh Roberts and Kingsley Francis-Reynolds, it was an day they will never forget.

Tomsett started – and did very well, in what was a hugely tough game to be thrown into – and the others came on in the second half.

The four are back at college this week – I’d wager their tales of what they got up to at the weekend will be a tad better than their fellow pupils.

And getting a taste of what life would be like every week if they make it will hopefully drive the teenagers on to better things, and the same goes for the four youngsters on the bench who didn’t manage to get on.

Aside from the kids, the team was basically that which played at Aston Villa, the last time Holloway rang the changes to give his regulars a breather.

Paul Rachubka gained the most from the afternoon, pulling off half a dozen fine saves and proving he is over his injury and genuine competition for Richard Kingson.

Neal Eardley did well, and Matt Phillips showed his class but perhaps didn’t do it often enough. That’s understandable though – the kid is 19 and despite his potential, won’t be the finished article for a while yet.

Keith Southern ran his socks off and Ludovic Sylvestre had a tidy first half before a lack of fitness again told as he faded after the break. That is an area of his game which needs honing.

It was good to see Alex Baptiste return, but out of position at left-back he didn’t look his usual self.

Still, a first 90 minutes since September at Chelsea will do him the world of good.

All 11 who started put a shift in, but it always seemed Southampton wanted it a little more.

Pool had just one effort in the first period, Southern’s left footer clearing the bar.

The home side made most of the running and should have gone in front on 34 minutes when Rachubka failed to gather a corner and Rickie Lambert thumped a volley against the bar.

Lambert must have been kicking himself that he didn’t get a goal against the club which a decade ago told him he wasn’t good enough.

Holloway’s men were much better second half, which sounds daft given they conceded twice and lost. But it’s true. Their passing improved and they were sharper going forward.

Had Jason Euell not missed a peach of a chance just after the interval – heading Eardley’s lovely cross over the bar from six yards – it might have been a different story.

Alas not. On 53 minutes Rob Edwards was guilty of a loose pass and Southampton took full advantage, Lee Barnard eventually converting from close range with Pool all at sea.

A fizzing shot from Phillips brought a terrific save from Saints No.2 keeper Bartosz Bialkowski, then Brett Ormerod was foiled by the post and a defender as he attempted to force in Phillips’ right wing cross.

A shame Ormerod couldn’t score, for he spent five years at Southampton and was given a standing ovation by the home fans when he was substituted.

Always a touching moment when rival supporters do that, but not a surprise – there can’t be a football fan alive who doesn’t admire Ormerod for his application and the way he approaches the game.

That, however, was the Seasiders last good chance as Adkins’ men – who had repeatedly tested Rachubka throughout the half – wrapped up victory a couple of minutes from the end thanks to a brilliant goal from substitute Guly Do Prado.

A Brazilian on loan from Italian club Cesena, he turned on the edge of the area and fired a ferocious rising drive into the top corner.

Pool helped create the goal though, Sylvestre and Dekel Keinan both conceding possession in a sloppy passage of play leading up to the strike.

Youth teamer Francis-Reynolds almost made a name for himself, finding space in the box but having the sting taken out of his shot by Frazer Richardson’s block.

But Southampton deserved at least a two-goal margin of victory, especially as moments earlier their own fresh-faced 17-year-old star Alex Chamberlain (being watched by Liverpool and Arsenal) had burst clear but been denied by the post.

So farewell to the FA Cup then, and a shame. Anyone over the age of 10 will know what a wonderful competition it is.

But these days, and as depressing as it might be, the Premier League cash cow rules (FA Cup third round winners get £100,000; finish a place higher in the Prem and you receive an extra £500,000).

Because of Holloway’s selection at Southampton, Adam, Vaughan, Evatt and co will be fresh as daisies when King Kenny brings Liverpool to town on Wednesday.

That gives Blackpool a far better chance of claiming what would be three massive points.

And like it or not, that is far more important than making the fourth round of the cup.