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Monday 26 June 2017

Long the late hero for Saints in dire struggle

Southampton 1-0 Norwich City

Shane Long celebrates. Photo: Getty
Shane Long celebrates. Photo: Getty

Shane Long spared Southampton's blushes by bundling the Premier League side past Norwich in a last-gasp 1-0 win in last night's FA Cup third round replay.

Norwich goalkeeper Michael McGovern parried the Republic of Ireland striker's last-ditch close-range header, only for the Tipp man to force the rebound home.

The underwhelming Saints struggled for rhythm all night, but finally squeezed past Championship outfit Norwich inside normal time, after the 2-2 draw at Carrow Road on January 7.

Saints will now host Arsenal in the fourth round at St Mary's on Saturday, January 28.

Former Norwich forward Nathan Redmond spurned three fine second-half chances as this dire tie looked to be heading for extra-time, only for Long to produce his rescue act.

A poor first-half served up just one morsel for the paltry and wholly-underwhelmed crowd. Sam McQueen's shot was tipped onto the post by Michael McGovern, before bouncing to safety.

Cuco Martina and Josh Sims grafted manfully enough down the right, but to entirely no avail.

The hosts upped the tempo after the break, but that was hardly any challenge.

Sims' low cross forced Ivo Pinto to turn the ball round the post, before Jay Rodriguez flicked the ball across the face of goal.

Just when Saints sniffed the faintest scent of blood, Norwich broke with two quick passes.

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty just failed to connect with Josh Murphy's teasing cross though, letting the home side comfortably off the hook.

James Ward-Prowse curled a smart free-kick just wide, with the rippling netting tricking the home faithful into thinking the midfielder had struck the breakthrough.

Replacement and ex-Norwich man Nathan Redmond then fluffed three fine openings, all in the final stages.

However, the Saints found some fluency at the death.

With extra-time looming, McQueen's cross let Long force the ball over the line at the second attempt for the winner.

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