Mark Hughes paid tribute to the ‘intensity and endeavour’ of League One Wigan Athletic after his Southampton side booked their side in next month’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley with a 2-0 victory at the DW.
Latics were hoping to make the Saints their fourth top-flight scalp in this season’s competition - having previously dumped out Bournemouth, West Ham and Manchester City.
But after failing to make the most of their first-half dominance, Latics were made to pay a high price when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg put the Saints ahead on the hour mark.
Latics were given a lifeline with 19 minutes to go when Christian Walton pulled off a stupendous penalty save to deny Manolo Gabbiadini, who’d been fouled in the box by Dan Burn.
Sadly they couldn’t make the most of the let-off, and Cedric Soares sealed the victory with aa breakaway goal in stoppage-time.
“I was delighted, I have to say,” acknowledged Hughes, who was taking charge for the first time after being appointed earlier in the week.
“It was a difficult fixture for us against a Wigan side whose manager and staff deserve huge credit for the way they set up and their philosophy of how they want to play.
“This year they’ve gone up against other top Premier League clubs and overcome them, so we were the next in line, apparently.
“But we weren’t prepared to play that game.
“We had to match their intensity and endeavour – that’s what lower league teams will always have in abundance.
“If you don’t match that, sometimes you can come unstuck.
“But as a consequence of matching their endeavour, we were able to show the level of quality we have above them.
“That’s eventually what’s taken the game away from them, so I’m delighted, because it wasn’t easy for us leading up to the game, with a lot of change at the club.
“The players could’ve found that difficult to deal with, but they’ve been first class since I walked through the door.
“It’s a good start for us, but that’s all it is, so we have to build on this now.”
Hughes opted to go with two up front and take the game to Wigan, and he was happy with the way things panned out.
“I think we just needed that threat from runs in behind and that energy up front,” he added.
“Both of them worked their socks off – in and out of possession.
“We’re going to need everyone. Everyone’s going to play their part, but those two up front did their claims no harm whatsoever.
“We’ve got to keep that energy high and confidence high, because clearly that’s in a better place now, so we need to continue in the same vein in the Premier League.”