MANAGER Ralph Hasenhuttl explained his decision to end James Ward-Prowse’s remarkable run of starts for Saints at Sheffield United but insisted: “The second half we could feel how important he is.”

The England midfielder was left out of the starting XI for the 2-2 Carabao Cup contest at Bramall Lane, with Oriol Romeu occupying a spot in holding midfield and Ibrahima Diallo playing further forward.

But having come off the bench to replace Nathan Redmond at half-time, Ward-Prowse stepped up first in the resulting penalty shootout and scored to help Saints to a 4-2 success on spot-kicks.

Ward-Prowse’s omission from the outset was the first time he had not started a game for Saints since May 4, 2019 – a 3-0 defeat away at West Ham United.

Asked what the conversation had been like to attempt to rest his captain, Hasenhuttl told the Daily Echo: “It was far ago that he didn’t start, yes. I was a little bit thinking about Ori and Prowsey.

“But I wanted Ori on the pitch because he helps Lyanco a little bit with his language.

“I thought this was more important for me and, that was the reason why I rested him (Ward-Prowse).

“For me, he is a very good ball player – everybody knows it - and the second half we could feel how important he is to our game.”

Ward-Prowse is still yet to miss a minute of action for Saints in the Premier League since the 2018-19 season.