Saints exit Carabao Cup in first round

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20230808 Gillingham vs Southampton Carabao Cup/IMG_3745_79d4ee98-f5fa-4dbe-b646-91ef5218da28_chgmtq

Southampton fell at the first hurdle in this season’s Carabao Cup as they were beaten 3-1 away to Gillingham.

A disappointing night at Priestfield Stadium saw Saints knocked out of the competition by their League Two opponents, who won the tie thanks Ashley Nadesan’s early strike and a Robbie McKenzie second-half brace.

Substitute Charly Alcaraz did score late on, but it was merely a consolation for the visitors.

Russell Martin made a full 11 changes from the Southampton team that won at Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship opener last Friday.

Summer signing Shea Charles (above) came in for his debut, starting in midfield, while youngsters Jayden Meghoma and Sam Amo-Ameyaw were also handed their first senior starts for the club. Meghoma began the game on the left side of defence, with Romain Perraud in the more unfamiliar role of centre-back, alongside Lyanco.

Goalkeeper Joe Lumley was named a sub after completing his move to the club this week, and he was joined on the bench by Academy products Kamari Doyle, Tyler Dibling and Dom Ballard.

It was the home side who started the better, and Saints survived a couple of nervy moments in the opening ten minutes, firstly as Romain Perraud sent a misjudged back-pass skidding wide of his own goal before Shad Ogie headed over after being picked out by a Cheye Alexander free-kick.

The hosts didn’t have to wait much longer for the breakthrough, however, as they took the lead on 12 minutes, Dom Jefferies charging down the left and sliding a ball across the face of goal that was perfectly weighted for the sliding Nadesan, who was able to stretch out with his right leg and steer home from six yards.

Saints did settle down after that and began to control more of the play, testing Gillingham keeper Glenn Morris in the 22nd minute for the first time, as Sékou Mara sent in a stinging shot from 18 yards that he was able to palm down.

But they were fortunate not to fall two goals behind shortly after, as Ethan Coleman steamed in to meet a Max Clark corner, only for his header from just outside the six-yard box to fly narrowly over.

Having almost been faced with a 2-0 deficit, Saints went within inches of erasing Gillingham’s advantage altogether in the 34th minute, as the bright Amo-Ameyaw showed great footwork to dance his way to the byline, with his low ball to the near post being blocked and rebounding to Mara, whose instinctive shot from an angle smashed against the bar.

Djenepo sent a shot straight at Harris from outside the area moments later, while Mara flashed a left-footed strike wide from a similar distance in the 42nd minute, as the visitors looked to build some pressure ahead of half-time.

A goal wouldn’t come, though, and Saints – who saw Perraud booked for a foul on Jayden Clarke – had to breathe a sigh of relief in added time when McKenzie headed in from a corner, only for referee Carl Brook to blow play dead for an infringement he had spotted in the crowded area.

The interval brought two changes from Saints boss Martin, as Doyle and Joe Aribo replaced Mara and Stuart Armstrong.

But there was little change in the flow of the game, and the threat from set-pieces that Gillingham had shown throughout the first half finally paid dividends for them, as they doubled the lead on 51 minutes.

A free-kick from a deep position on the inside right was swung towards the back post, where Ogie nodded it down, Max Ehmer flicked it goalwards with his right foot and McKenzie was in an opportune position to poke the ball past Alex McCarthy from inside the six-yard box.

Martin responded with his third change of the night, as Alcaraz was sent on in place of Perraud, prompting a reshuffle that saw Charles move to centre-back.

Charles would go into the book on 64 minutes when he bundled Nadesan over when the Gillingham forward attempted to run in behind, as the hosts continued to put the pressure on.

And they were rewarded again just three minutes later, scoring their third when McKenzie rifled home a bouncing shot from the edge of the box after a corner was cleared into his path.

Paul Onuachu was sent on for Ché Adams, while teenager Tyler Dibling was handed his debut in the closing stages. Alcaraz would pull one back with two minutes left, firing a low shot inside the post from just outside the box, but there was to be no comeback, as Saints exited the competition.

Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Ehmer (c), McKenzie, Ogie, Clark, Jefferies (Malone 71), Coleman, Lapslie (J Williams 71), Clarke (Gbodé 84), Nadesan (Nichols 71).

Subs not used: Turner, Gale, Chambers.

Goals: Nadesan (12), McKenzie (51, 67).

Yellow cards: Lapslie, Jefferies, McKenzie, Ehmer, Gbodé.

Saints: McCarthy, Bree, Lyanco, Perraud (Alcaraz 59), Meghoma (Dibling 85), Charles, S Armstrong (Aribo 46), Djenepo, Amo-Ameyaw, Mara (Doyle 46), Adams (c) (Onuachu 68).

Subs not used: Lumley, Stephens, Edozie, Ballard.

Goals: Alcaraz (89).

Yellow cards: Perraud, Charles, Lyanco.

Referee: Carl Brook.

Attendance: 7,775.