EFL

Southampton have changed dynamic of promotion race – Russell Martin

By Sports Desk April 16, 2024

Russell Martin said the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion race “dynamic” has changed after Southampton’s 3-0 domination of Preston.

Saints had looked destined for a play-off place after three defeats in four games during February, but three home wins in seven days has them just four points off the top two.

A Che Adams brace and Stuart Armstrong’s fourth goal of the season sealed the points on Tuesday and Saints boss Martin said: “I think it was a brilliant performance with some really beautiful stuff.

“It has been a big week for us. It has changed the dynamic. We were written off some point ago but the players have stuck at it and been resilient.

“We have the opportunity to take the points off teams around us but if we have to take care of the next one against Cardiff and if we don’t then the others become a bit pointless.”

Adams opened the scoring in the 19th minute when he tapped in Adam Armstrong’s centre for his 100th career goal.

He doubled his tally by finishing a fine team move with a cool finish before Stuart Armstrong capitalised on a defensive howler to smash in.

The only taint on the evening was an Achilles injury to goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in the warm-up that looks to have ended his season.

Martin, who promoted Alex McCarthy, said: “He has felt something in his Achilles and will have a scan tomorrow. We don’t expect to see him any time soon and we’ll give him all the support he needs.

“Al has trained so well. He has travelled everywhere and trained like a beast. We’ve seen what Joe (Lumley) can do and has done really well and we wanted to see Al. It was a feeling I had in my gut at the time.”

But Martin added on the performance of Adams, who he subbed off before he could score a hat-trick: “He has just threatened to beat me up out there! We had a hug and a laugh and he understands why I had to take him off.

“He looks like he is going to score all the time at the moment.”

Preston had the third lowest expected goals of the Championship season with 0.07 and manager Ryan Lowe said: “The be all and end all was the first half has cost us. The game plan that we set out to do in the first half was nowhere near.

“The game was probably over at half-time at 3-0. You can’t give a team like Southampton chances like that because they’re a fantastic team.

“The game plan was to try and nullify their strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses and we didn’t really do either.

“They could end up going up automatically, if not they’re going to be a real force in the play-offs.”

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