Southampton manager Mark Hughes expects Charlie Austin to receive a much-needed confidence boost thanks to his late winner against Brighton.
Austin earned Saints a place in the third round of the Carabao Cup with an 88th-minute header in the 1-0 victory at the Amex Stadium.
Hughes admits the striker has endured a frustrating start to the season, failing to hit the net in three league appearances which have ended in a draw and two defeats.
But he climbed off the bench with nine minutes remaining to settle a relatively-forgettable south-coast clash.
“It’s important for Charlie. Charlie has struggled a bit in terms of creating chances and taking chances and it just affected his confidence a little bit,” Hughes said.
“But that will do him the world of good.
“We need Charlie getting shots off and testing goalkeepers and, when he’s in that vein of form, then he’ll always score goals.
“In recent weeks he’s found it difficult to make an impression. When Charlie’s flying and in great form, he’s always testing keepers four or five times in the game and he hasn’t been able to do that.
“The goal today will help him, certainly.”
Hughes made positive changes in search of the breakthrough, bringing on attacking trio Austin, Nathan Redmond and Sam Gallagher in the final 20 minutes.
His gamble paid off when Austin – who replaced Manolo Gabbiadini – prevented a penalty shoot-out by rising high to head home Redmond’s cross following sustained late pressure from the visitors.
The Welshman was pleased with the impact of his changes and admitted he was keen to avoid spot-kicks.
“I felt we were always in control of the game. I didn’t really want to go to penalties because I thought that would give Brighton their best chance,” he added.
“I thought in general play we were in real command of the situation.
“I think in the second half the changes we made at the top end of the pitch gave us a little bit more energy, a bit more power and pace, and I think that was the key to taking the tie away from Brighton.”
Both sides made 10 changes for the game, with Brighton’s reshuffle including a first start for record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh and first-team debuts for young trio Ben Barclay, Will Collar and Viktor Gyokeres.
Albion boss Chris Hughton was pleased with the performance of his players but acknowledged Southampton had more quality on the night, partly due to having fewer injury problems.
“Overall I’m delighted with what the players gave. I’m disappointed to concede so late in the game,” Hughton said.
“Southampton have probably showed that – at this moment – they have more depth in the squad than what we’ve got; no real injuries at the moment and can probably comfortably make the changes that they needed to make.
“Probably in the end that just showed a little bit.
“But I’m really delighted with the young ones that played because it was a big test for them.
“Young Ben Barclay will come away from this game having played against Gabbiadini, Austin, these are top Premier League players.
“They will have learnt from that.”
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