The lowdown on tonight's FA Youth Cup opponents, Watford, as our young Saints bid for a place in the competition's fifth round...
Watford U18 vs Southampton U18
FA Youth Cup
Wingate And Finchley FC
Thursday 17 Jan, 7pm GMT
Southampton’s Hertfordshire based opponents were narrow victors over Birmingham City in their respective third round tie, while Paul Hardyman’s side saw off Rotherham 2-0 at St Mary's, to set up tonight’s fourth round meeting.
Indeed, there has been an upturn in fortunes since that cup win for Saints - unbeaten since early December - with victory over West Ham and a commendable 2-2 draw with Under-18s champions Chelsea sandwiched between that Youth Cup success.
Comparatively, the young Hornets have lost both of their most recent league encounters (having gone six games unbeaten before Christmas), and form could play a huge part in dictating who comes out on top this evening.
Saints were knocked out of the competition at this stage last term, surrendering to Blackpool on penalties, but there's plenty of determination, from both staff and players, to better last year's surprise fourth round exit - with Ipswich Town lying in wait for tonight's victors.
THIRD ROUND HIGHLIGHTS: Saints 2-0 Rotherham (Norton, Ferry)
WATFORD’S PREVIOUS FIVE: WLWLL
Millwall U18 1-0 Watford U18
Watford 2-3 Cardiff City U18
Watford U18 1-0 Birmingham City U18 (FA Youth Cup)
Ipswich Town U18 3-1 Watford U18
Coventry City U18 0-3 Watford U18
Former Watford Academy coach Paul Hardyman faces his old side when Saints meet the young Hornets tonight, now led by Darren Sarll. He's expecting a tough test, but is clear that Saints, at their best, have enough quality to push for a place in the fifth round.
“We’ve managed to give every squad member some game time; the lads have taken everything on board and the results have been positive,” Hardyman said.
“We’ll put a team out who will do a good job, we’ve got a big squad and we’ll utilise that.
“We want consistent performances, in the league and cup. The FA Cup has a special meaning to it - the same can be said of the youth competition, it’s the excitement of a one-off game.
“I’ll be seeing some young lads that I’ve worked with prior to joining Saints. They’ll cause us problems.
“But if we’re on form, we’ve got players that will hurt them. I’m expecting a tight game, but a lively one.”