JAY Rodriguez proved he has what it takes to challenge Rickie Lambert for a place in the Saints side with a match winning display against Sheffield Wednesday.
The £7m summer signing from Burnley has had a frustrating start to life at St Mary’s, initially finding himself playing out on the left before being omitted from the team altogether.
Rodriguez has had to wait patiently for a chance to play as an out and out striker with Lambert starting the season in such fine form but he grabbed it with both hands last night, netting two goals to secure a 2-0 win over the Owls in the Capital One Cup third round.
Though Lambert doesn’t look like being dislodged from the first team anytime soon, Rodriguez proved that he is ready to push the club’s main man all the way if his level drops at all.
Saints assistant manager Andy Crosby said: “He has had to wait for his chance but he’s been a great character around the place.
“He’s a good age and it was a great first touch for his first goal and he’s finished it well.
“He had a massive impact and I thought his movement was excellent against two centre halves who perhaps wanted him to come short.
“I thought his movement in between and down the sides was really good and he is one of many players who has taken his opportunity.
“We know that’s where he’s most comfortable (as an out and out striker) and he’s got good competition in front of him at the moment but whenever you get an opportunity you’ve got to take it and he’s done that.
“Whenever he’s needed we know he’s more than ready.”
Saints fielded a much more experienced side than expected for the Wednesday match and made light work of dispatching their Championship opponents, giving Dave Jones’ side little hope of getting anything from the tie.
“I think the way we set about the game made it a comfortable night,” reflected Crosby.
“I thought we were excellent first half, moved the ball really well, applied pressure to them high up the pitch.
“At half time it was could we improve our quality in the final third? – because we had three or four one-on-ones and crossing opportunities – but all in all it was a great night’s work.
“It was a more senior looking team than the first round as we’ve had players coming in during the transfer window which has added competition and whenever you play – whether it’s a Premier League game or a Capital One Cup game – you’ve got to take that opportunity and we have to produce performances and results.”
The only downer on proceedings was the knee injury suffered by Jack Cork on what was his first start this season.
“We don’t know at the moment. I think his studs got stuck in the turf a little bit and he’s come off and we’ll have to assess that,” said Crosby.
The assistant manager also confirmed that Luke Shaw was missing through illness, that Tadanari Lee has an elbow problem which will sideline him for a week or so and that Emmanuel Mayuka wasn’t risked after picking up a knock on his ankle against Aston Villa at the weekend.
The draw for the fourth round of the Capital One Cup will be made after this evening’s ties.