WINCHESTER boss Craig Davis says his City youngsters have “earned the right” to face Saints in tomorrow's Southampton Senior Cup quarter-final at the Simplyhealth City Ground (Thursday, 7.45pm).

Having battled past AFC Stoneham and Nursling in the previous rounds with a largely teenage side, Davis believes it’s only fair to keep faith with as many young guns as possible in a prestige fixture against Radhi Jaidi’s under-23s.

It means the likes of IK Hill – already a Southern League regular, Ben Sunley, Josh Corner and Harvey Clark should all get a look-in, along with 16-year-old goalkeeper Josh Toombs who made the final trial for the Under-18 England Schoolboy squad last weekend.

Davis said: “This will be a great night for the club and our young lads will once again have the chance to show what they can do.

“They’ve earned the right to this game. They’ve been superb in battling through two rounds so far and they deserve it.

“As a club, we want to strengthen that group as much as we can.”

Mixed in with the youngsters will be a handful of senior players in need of playing time.

“We’ll include five from the first-team squad and that’s likely to be the subs from the first-team game at Paulton last weekend,” explained Davis, whose side are in with a shout of the Evo-Stik South West play-offs.

“We’ve got an important game at home to Larkhall less than 48 hours after the Saints game and we can’t afford to risk any likely starters.

“But we’ll give it a good go tomorrow and we’re looking forward to the experience of testing the lads against professional players from Southampton. We’re buzzing for it. It’s a prestige fixture and we’re honoured to be playing them.”

Saints have returned to the competition this season to sprinkle some stardust on the centenary celebrations.

So far they have beaten BTC Southampton 6-0 and QK Southampton 12-0 to ease through to the last eight – both games played at Staplewood.

“This is the first away game they’ve had and we’re doing all we can to spring clean the place ready for them!” smiled Davis. “Everyone’s excited about it. It should be a good occasion.”

Southampton under-23s had been due to play their Blackburn Rovers counterparts in Premier League 2 on Monday, but it was postponed due to a frozen pitch at the Leyland County Ground. A new date will be announced in due course.

The young Saints have now had more than a two-week break in fixtures and Jaidi said: “The players have had a good rest. But, from a coaching point of view, we don’t rest because you’re constantly thinking about the season going forward and reflecting.”

Admission at Winchester tomorrow is just £5 for adults and free for children under 16.