Stephens: We have to be critical of ourselves

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240401 Ipswich vs Southampton/AY5I4818_04e65ff6-5eb2-49ef-970c-4c5041bd5144_20240401054520_xunduw

Southampton captain Jack Stephens made no excuses for Saints’ agonising late defeat to Ipswich at Portman Road.

Saints fell behind early on to an explosive strike from Leif Davis, but responded impressively, instantly equalising through Ché Adams and then turning the game on its head through Adam Armstrong’s 20th goal of the season.

Saints had chances to extend the lead either side of half time, before Ipswich substitute Nathan Broadhead levelled the scores and James Bree was sent off five minutes from time.

The hosts took advantage by reclaiming top spot with a dramatic last-gasp goal from another substitute, Jeremy Sarmiento, seven minutes into stoppage time.

“Obviously it’s still fresh in our minds, but it’s really tough to take after the first-half performance, bouncing back from the early goal,” Stephens said.

“We can’t lose that game after the way we played, but it’s happened and we have to be critical of ourselves. The two goals we concede in the second half are really poor, and that’s on us.

“We had chances to go 3-1, and 4-1 probably. It was the same on Friday, we had chances to go and kill Middlesbrough as well, but after that we need to defend better than that. The goal on Friday and the two goals tonight in the second half were just really poor.

“If we don’t go and score three and four, we have to be better than that, we have to see that game out. I know it makes it difficult when we go down to ten men for the last seven or eight minutes, but we can’t lose from that point.”

Stephens hopes when the dust settles Saints will be encouraged by the way they played, but reckons they must now win all eight remaining games to have a chance of gate-crashing the automatic promotion places.

“I think when you take the emotion out of it, the performance was so good, but at the end of the day we’ve come away with no points, and that hurts. It doesn’t matter how well you play if you don’t defend properly, like we should’ve done,” he added.

“If we don’t take our chances it counts for nothing, unfortunately. Maybe when we watch it back we’ll take positives from the performance, but at the moment it’s still fresh, so it’s really tough.

“We need to win eight I think, to give ourselves any kind of hope, and even that might not be off. We’ll see, we have to dust ourselves off and give it everything for the last eight and see where that takes us. Of course it’ll be difficult, but we’ll just give it our best.”