Southampton racked up their third win in six days with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Premier League rivals Crystal Palace thanks largely to a fourth goal in three games from in-form striker Charlie Austin. The rejuvenated Austin converted from the penalty spot 12 minutes before half-time after the live-wire Shane Long had been tripped by Martin Kelly.
Academy starlet Jake Hesketh crowned another good night for home manager Claude Puel with his first senior goal midway through the second half as Saints made serene progress to the last 16 of the EFL Cup.
Austin's goal spree shows no signs of ending and that can only be a good thing as Southampton battle on three fronts in the Premier League, Europa League and EFL Cup. Southampton have also kept three successive clean sheets during their recent run of wins, so there are signs Puel is making them more defensively resolute.
The performance of former youth team ace Jake Hesketh shows Southampton's academy production line is as fertile as ever.
Despite a much-improved performance, Shane Long is still searching for his first goal of the season and needs to end that drought before it starts to seriously affect his confidence. Nathan Redmond was poor in Sunday's 1-0 win over Swansea and again failed to impress after coming on as a second half substitute.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Puel's squad rotation policy appears to be paying dividends. Saints have won their last three games in three difference competitions with three different teams. His decision to rest Virgil van Dijk was risky but paid dividends as the home side never looked in danger of conceding. Whatever the Frenchman is doing in training has got Austin back to his best.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alex McCarthy, 6 -- He could not have hoped for a quieter evening against his former club. Did not have to work too hard for his debut clean sheet.
DF Cuco Martina, 7 -- Another all-action display from the marauding full-back, who is quickly becoming a fan favourite at St Mary's. He even came close to scoring with first-half effort from an acute angle.
DF Maya Yoshida, 6 -- Piloted into the line-up to give the imperious van Dijk a well-earned day off. The Japanese international, not always popular with the fans, did not have to break sweat to keep toothless Palace at bay.
DF Jose Fonte, 6 -- Will have enjoyed the win against his former employers and kept Connor Wickham quiet without ever having to be at his best.
DF Matt Targett, 7 -- One of his most impressive performances in Southampton colours. Nullified the threat of Wilfried Zaha and made some terrific runs down the left.
MF Harrison Reed, 6 -- Given a rare starting chance and was quietly effective without doing anything spectacular.
MF Jordy Clasie 7 -- Bounced back from a poor performance against Swansea on Sunday and played a big part in Saints bossing the midfield battle, although he will probably find himself back on the bench at the weekend.
MF James Ward-Prowse, 7 -- Showed off his full range of passing skills with some delightful through-balls for Austin and Long to chase.
No. 10 Jake Hesketh, 8 -- The latest graduate from Southampton's impressive academy announced his arrival with a superb display in only his second first-team start, crowning it with a well-taken goal.
FW Charlie Austin, 7 -- Continued his recent scoring streak with a penalty in the first half but should have added to his tally after passing up two further good chances.
FW Shane Long, 7 -- Back to somewhere near the form that made him such a threat in the second half of last season. Ran the Palace defence ragged and was a good foil for striker partner Austin. Won the penalty for Austin's opener and it was his saved shot that teed up Hesketh for the second goal.
FW Nathan Redmond, 5 -- Replaced man of the moment Austin in the second half but didn't carry the same threat. Also gave the ball away cheaply at times.
MF Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, NR -- Kept the Southampton midfield ticking along.
FW Dusan Tadic, NR -- Not given enough time to make his mark.