Southampton will be at home to holders Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup following a 2-0 win over coronavirus-hit Shrewsbury on Tuesday.
Dan N’Lundulu marked his first senior start for the Saints with a maiden goal for the club in the 17th minute at their St Mary’s ground before England’s James Ward-Prowse put the result beyond doubt a minute from time.
The Saints will have little time to enjoy this victory as their tie with Arsenal, a repeat of the 2003 FA Cup final won 1-0 by the Gunners, takes place at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who made seven changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Premier League leaders Leicester, praised his youthful side while accepting a match against Arsenal would be “tougher” for the south coast club.
“Every young lad did a good job,” Hasenhuttl told BT Sport. “You could see in the dressing room that they were a little bit nervous. But they have to be brave, they know what they had to do and it was a good first game for them.”
Third-tier Shrewsbury were playing their first competitive match since December following a raft of coronavirus cases and were without manager Steve Cotterill after he had spent time in intensive care due to Covid-19.
Cotterill was taken to hospital last week following an outbreak at the League One club, which forced the postponement of the third-round tie earlier this month.
Shrewsbury had not played since beating Blackpool on December 29.
“I am really proud of the boys. To be off for 14 days and come back and have three days training for a game against Premier League opposition, I thought they were unbelievable,” said assistant coach Aaron Wilbraham, overseeing the team in Cotterilll’s absence. “We were always in the game and put them (Southampton) under pressure.”
Only Jan Bednarek, Jack Stephens, Ibrahima Diallo and Ward-Prowse remained in the Southampton starting line-up from the side beaten by Leicester.
Southampton scored with first real chance of Tuesday’s match when N’Lundulu shot through the legs of Scott Golbourne and into the bottom corner, although it needed a VAR check for possible handball to confirm the 21-year-old’s goal.
The hosts, however, had to wait until the 89th minute for their second goal, when midfielder Ward-Prowse scored with a 25-yard free-kick that Shrews keeper Matija Sarkic got a hand to but could not keep out of the net.