EFL

Russell Martin hopes Saints go marching on with togetherness and self-belief

By Sports Desk March 02, 2024

Russell Martin believes Southampton’s togetherness and spirit will help in their push for an immediate Premier League return after they fought for a much-needed, last-gasp 4-3 win at 10-man Birmingham.

Having been relegated with a whimper last term before enduring a difficult start to life in the Sky Bet Championship, Saints then went on a club-record 25-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

That streak ended 18 days ago with the first of four defeats in five games, with three of those losses coming in the league as their hopes of automatic promotion began to fade.

Martin’s men desperately needed to return to winning ways to kick-start their promotion bid and substitute Joe Aribo’s stoppage-time strike completed a breathless victory at St Andrew’s.

“The identity of the team has changed and how it functions and how it plays, and what is important to the team,” the Saints boss said after catching his breath. “But the biggest change has been in that (spirit).

“I think how together they are, how much they believe in each other, how much they trust each other, how much they care for each other.

“And that just takes time and hopefully they see that the same thing from us as a group of coaching staff.

“It has been amazing and they are so together and they feel everything together.

“Football has a tendency to make you into a bit of a robot, really, emotionally, especially when you’ve been in the game for a long time.

“You have a bit of like scar tissue from previous battles but been amazing to see some of them open up and be a bit vulnerable.

“To play the way we play you have to be a bit vulnerable sometimes with the ball because it’s a bit scary. I have nothing but gratitude for that and I’ve loved watching it.

“That spirit will help us for sure in the last quarter of the season.

“I’d rather not win in the last minute, but I think it’s down to togetherness and spirit, and also the amount of work they put into opposition teams with the ball.

“They make teams have to run really, really hard and it tires people out.”

Saints were on top for large parts but twice came from behind in Birmingham, where Koji Miyoshi and Jay Stansfield efforts were cancelled out by Adam Armstrong and David Brooks respectively.

Che Adams went on to put the visitors ahead against his former club, who were reduced to 10 men when Blues skipper Dion Sanderson was sent off.

Birmingham dug deep in the absence of boss Tony Mowbray and Juninho Bacuna equalised, but Southampton were not to be denied as Aribo sparked stoppage-time celebrations.

Assistant Mark Venus, who felt Sanderson’s red card was undeserved, said: “It must have exciting for the fans. It was emotional sat there, to be honest.

“I think if you just look at the end of it, we got to 90-odd minutes with 3-3 with 10 men and just to concede the last goal is heartbreaking for everybody, really.

“I think they were dangerous every time they put the ball in the box and bottom line is we rode our luck.

“We played against a good team in the league and showed a lot of character.”

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