Dan Nlundulu declared his first Southampton goal “a dream come true” after getting off the mark in the 2-0 win over Shrewsbury Town in the Emirates FA Cup third round at St Mary’s.
The 21-year-old striker, making his eighth first-team appearance and his first start, has had to battle back from a series of injuries that threatened to stifle his progress, and was keen to thank the club for sticking by him.
Fellow Academy graduates Caleb Watts and Kegs Chauke started the game, while Alex Jankewitz and Ryan Finnigan were introduced late on, as manager Ralph Hasenhüttl rewarded four youngsters with debuts.
“It’s a dream come true, scoring for this great club,” Nlundulu said. “They’ve had to be very patient with me, and I’m forever grateful for what they’ve done for me.
“Throughout my journey it’s been very difficult. I’ve had a lot of setbacks and I’m very grateful to Southampton Football Club to keep believing in me, and now I’m glad that I’m showing them why it was worth the wait.
“I’ve had so many managers coming through that have really helped me in my development to who I am now, especially Craig Fleming, who’s been helping me throughout my whole journey here.
“All coaches, all staff, especially the medical team that have been helping me as well, so it’s great. As you can see, we had about three or four debuts today as well, so it’s a great club.”
The 21-year-old striker fired Saints in front in the 16th minute with a low shot across goalkeeper Matija Šarkić that nestled neatly inside the far post, while captain James Ward-Prowse made the game safe with a trademark free-kick late on, setting up a fourth-round meeting with Arsenal, again on home soil, on Saturday.
“As the ball came, I knew if I shot first time it would hit the defender. I thought I had to shift it and then shoot, and in my mind I was convinced it was going to go in. It was a great feeling,” Nlundulu added.
“It’s a great experience. I thank the manager for trusting me in the first place, but now I’ve got to keep working hard, keep listening to him, keep listening to his advice and show him what I can do.
“Hopefully he keeps trusting me, I keep getting on the pitch and do what I do best.”