Martin: We had to find a way

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240309 Southampton vs Sunderland/AY5I6643_m78gal

Russell Martin said he was delighted with another four-goal Southampton victory, but admitted there were elements of the performance that left him frustrated against Sunderland at St Mary’s.

Saints were dominant in the first half, deservedly taking a 2-0 lead through the two Armstrongs: Stuart, who forced the ball home from a free-kick, and Adam, who converted a 37th-minute penalty.

But Sunderland found a way back into the game through two quick-fire goals from distance early in the second period, forcing Saints to rally once more, eventually claiming victory through substitute Joe Rothwell’s brace.

“I don’t think that’s in question,” Martin said of Saints deserving the win. “The frustration is the way we’ve had to do it.

“We shouldn’t concede two goals. We limited them to one shot that hit the post in the first half inside the box – the rest are all outside the box.

“We spoke before the game about them scoring the most goals from outside the box in the league, and we still allowed that to happen, so I was annoyed. But we should be out of sight in the first half, we should score four or five goals.

“They came with such an aggressive press, left a lot of space in behind, we played through and when we did it was almost like counter-attacks, but we have to make more of those opportunities. It was just a bit of a lack of that finishing touch, that real conviction.

“It took a set-piece – which Gilly and Colin have been working so hard on, Gilly in particular with the attacking ones, but the players are really carrying things out – and a penalty, but we should have had three or four goals from open play that we just don’t make the most of.

“And then we concede one, concede two. We need to stop that, it shouldn’t take us to score four goals for us to win, but my overriding feeling is I’m really happy with the win.

“We had to find a way to win today, and we did. We dug deep, showed big character, the subs had a massive impact again, which I’m really delighted with.”

Martin reserved praise for match-winner Rothwell, whose late double after being introduced with only 17 minutes to go proved to be the difference.

“The first one looks easy but it’s not, it’s an amazing strike on the half-volley. He possesses so much technical ability,” the manager added.

“Him and Joe Aribo can feel really frustrated to be out of the side, because they were fantastic at Anfield, and they’ve continued to contribute when they’ve come on. They were great today, and the subs’ impact again.”

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