Southampton’s Jack Stephens has targeted a run to the FA Cup final after enjoying the “perfect” birthday by scoring the goal that secured their 1-0 fourth-round defeat of Watford.
The central defender scored his first goal for the club on the day he turned 24, and having played in last season’s EFL Cup final against Manchester United in the absence of the injured Virgil van Dijk he wants to return to Wembley.
Since Van Dijk’s departure to Liverpool he has returned to Southampton’s starting XI, alongside Wesley Hoedt, and he told his club’s official website: “It was the perfect day for me and great of course to get on the scoresheet but the most important thing is the result for the team and for the club.
“We wanted to progress in this competition and we got the result that we needed. We’ve had the experience from the League Cup last year; if we could replicate that this time around in the FA Cup, it would be unbelievable.
“It was a similar game to the one (against Watford, which finished 2-2) at their place a couple of weeks ago; we played very well in the first half, they reacted by going more direct and we were ready for it.
“We dealed with the high balls a lot better (this time) so it’s a really pleasing clean sheet for us. We haven’t earned many of late so to get one here and win was important.”
Watford’s latest defeat extended their poor run, which contributed to the sacking of Marco Silva and the appointment of Javi Gracia as their new head coach, to nine defeats from their past 13.
On Wednesday they visit fellow strugglers Stoke in the Premier League, and their midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has demanded they show greater hunger to respond.
“It was a tough afternoon for us: we started bad,” he said of Saturday’s defeat at St Mary’s to their official website.
“Everybody has to look at themselves, to bring back the confidence. The most important thing is Wednesday’s game: we have to come back more hungry to win, to come back stronger.
“The most important thing is to stick together. We have a lot of finals coming: the first is Wednesday. We have to stick together to get confidence, and after we will see what happens.”