Food for thought.

It was one of the main aims of the game for Mark Hughes leading into last night’s trip to face Everton at Goodison Park in the Carabao Cup.

In the end the tie actually provided more than that.

It not only guaranteed Saints a passage through to the fourth round, even if that is another away game to a Premier League side in the shape of Leicester, but also was a nice confidence booster.

After all, Saints had not won at Goodison Park in their previous 14 attempts stretching back to 1997. It may have been level at full time but at least penalties secured them the tie.

Hughes also will surely now feel he has more options, and realistic ones at that, to consider for his Premier League line-ups.

He has stuck by a core group of players in recent weeks, even in the face of results not going the way they wanted them to.

That has probably been partly about faith in some, maybe a lack of faith in others, perhaps just the belief that consistency will pay off. It is often in short supply in modern football but can be well rewarded.

Following the defeat at Wolves there was a feeling that the timing was right for some changes, and that the game at Everton would be a chance for fringe players to stake a claim.

So it was an interesting team selection from Hughes, neither one thing nor the other, with just six changes and a switch to a back three utilising all the centre halves who have been on the outside looking in.

Other players who might have assumed before Wolves they would get a chance – Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis, Stuart Armstrong – were left on the bench as Saints chased a win for momentum and belief.

The tricky decision from here comes because Saints did well.

Despite the customary late goal conceded, they looked much more composed, fluid and were good value to get through. Indeed, they could have won with some comfort in normal time and Everton could not have complained.

But with Chelsea up on Sunday does Hughes now consider changing formation and a considerable switch in personnel?

If he doesn’t and simply reverts to the same league team then this will have just have been a one-off in many ways.

If he does then might he risk tired players, a formation that doesn’t work or exposing themselves to a top drawer side?

The halfway house of changes provided the win Saints so badly needed, but it actually raised even more questions than it answered.

Hughes will have much to ponder over the next few days.