League One: Southampton 4 Dagenham & Redbridge 0
Daggers hit for four by sublime Saints
It was trailed as the ultimate battle of the haves against the have nots. Unfortunately for Daggers, their trip to the South Coast was even more one-sided than its billing.
Southampton; a squad with millions of pounds worth of talent and a stadium fit for the Premier League against a side struggling to stay afloat in the deep waters of League One.
John Still had talked about this being a special occasion for his young upstarts, but it did not take them long to be awoken from the dream with a jolt of harsh reality.
In fact, the only shock of the evening came in the warm up when goalkeeper Tony Roberts pulled up with a groin injury, which he originally incurred on Saturday, which meant a first football league start for Chris Lewington.
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The 22-year-old showed no signs of nerves with his first task, catching a weak effort from Richard Chaplow, but had to be alert as Saints dominated the early exchanges.
Damien McCrory appeared to have drawn the short straw though, having been tasked with marking the latest to roll off the impressive Southampton youth production line in Alex Chamberlain.
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The fleet-footed 17-year-old was a little fortunate to put the Saints ahead on 11 minutes when, having got to the bye-line, the winger’s mis-cued chipped cross looped towards goal and over the out-stretched fingers of Lewington, before nestling in the net. However it set the tone for an evening of individual and collective class.
Chamberlain was nearly the architect of a second mid-way through the first period when his inch-perfect cross found the unmarked Adam Lallana, who had stole a march at the back post, but the midfielder’s free header went wide from six yards.
While Southampton were in firm control, Gavin Tomlin was the one player in a green shirt who looked likely to make something happen in the home half.
Having not scored all season going into the game, he nearly opened his account in spectacular fashion when, with no support, he cut infield 20 yards from goal and powered a shot towards the roof of the goal, which Kelvin Davis barely tipped over for a corner.
The effort sparked the first period of sustained possession for Daggers, but any renewed optimism was derailed on 38 minutes when Chamberlain cast another spell over proceedings.
Having raced to the corner of the Daggers penalty area, the teenager his on-rushing, expensively-assembled strikeforce and instead chipped Lewington from the diagonal angle. This time, there was no doubt about its intent.
John Still’s side were now getting it from both angles with Lallana attempting to out-do Chamberlain on the other side of the pitch, with his slide rule pass playing in Lee Barnard, but Lewington smothered bravely at his feet to prevent a third before half-time.
Space was not hard to come by on the big St Mary’s pitch and the home side continued to exploit after the break as Daggers began to retreat into their shells.
Lallana, full of trickery and ambition on the left-hand side, put the ball on a plate for Barnard to make it three with a tap in on 56 minutes, before Rickie Lambert fluffed a chance for a fourth minutes later.
Saints boss Nigel Adkins withdrew both soon after in the knowledge the game was won, but the pressure his side exerted was unrelenting.
The fourth did arrive on 69 minutes with Chamberlain floated a ball over Lewington to Jose Fonte, who out-muscled McCrory to head into an empty net.
To make matters worse for the home side, Scott Doe then hobbled off looking in real pain with a foot injury - with one of the few positives of the night being his refusal to go off on a stretcher.
When Chamberlain was replaced near the end, he was met with a standing ovation from all corners of the ground. Daggers fans included.
They left St Mary’s with a new name to remember, but a game to quickly forget.
Daggers: Lewington, McCrory, Doe (Walsh, 75 mins), Arber, Green, Scott, Tomlin (Pinney, 78 mins), Ifil, Scannell (Nurse, 66 mins), Taiwo, Vincelot.
Subs: Savage, Currie, Gain.
Saints: Davis, Richardson, Seaborne, Fonte, Harding, Chamberlain (Schneiderlin, 82 mins), Chaplow, Hammond, Lallana, Barnard (Bignall, 64 mins), Lambert (Do Prado, 64 mins).
Subs: Bialkowski, Schneiderlin, Dickson, Puncheon, Jaidi.
Attendance: 20,161, including 242 Daggers fans.