04 November 2023

Russell Martin hails ‘relentless’ Southampton after another late winner

04 November 2023

Russell Martin praised Southampton’s bravery as Ryan Fraser was again their late hero at Millwall.

The Saints have scored crucial injury-time goals in their last three away games with Fraser, who scored a last-gasp winner at Hull last month, sealing the spoils with a 93rd-minute strike.

Martin’s side are now motoring – having also drawn with Preston thanks to Ched Evans’ stoppage-time own goal – but were made to wait for their fifth win in seven, peppering Bartosz Bialkowski’s goal but unable to get past the Pole until the last gasp.

“The lads responded and stayed so brave in the second half,” said Martin. “The amount of running we made them do made the game look like it did in the last half-hour.

“We were relentless in attack and at the hour mark I thought ‘we’ve got them’ but their keeper made a few good saves and we couldn’t get the goal.

“Thankfully we got it right at the end and it’s a moment of composure. I’m really grateful for that and proud of the players.

“I think we had control, we limited them to one shot on target and they hit the bar from a set-piece.

“The second half looked a lot different because we were aggressive, we made runs for each other to open them up and I was really pleased with that.”

Bialkowski made a string of fine saves, keeping out Stuart Armstrong’s shot in the 20th minute and then powerful efforts from Carlos Alcaraz and Will Smallbone.

Frustration grew in the Saints ranks with Kamaldeen Sulemana, another denied by Bialkowski in the second half, reacting angrily to being substituted by Martin.

“We had guys coming off the pitch annoyed that they’ve come off and I don’t mind that,” said Martin.

“I’ve told them it’s a squad game. And if you show you’re annoyed when you come off I honestly don’t have a problem with that at all.

“They’re human beings and want to play football and that’s how it should be. I don’t see that as disrespectful and all that nonsense. As long as they celebrate with the guys when there’s a moment like that, which they did, then there’s never a problem.”

Adam Barrett continues to take caretaker charge at the Den, with Millwall now winless in five having also conceded late in their draw with Watford.

“You know with the quality players they’ve got and their play that they will wear you down a bit,” he said of Saints.

“I’m frustrated with the ending because when you switch off for one moment against these tough teams they punish you. They keep working and probing and it was a real sickener to concede so late again.

“I haven’t watched it back, but my initial thoughts are we spoke about the way they play and move and I don’t think we dealt with it well enough.

“They’re good players and they go and punish you. It’s two games there where we should be coming away with four points and we’ve got one.

“It’s vital we get results back on track here, it’s been disappointing.

“We’ve hit the bar first half and that could have changed it. The fans were with the boys all game, it was a great atmosphere. But we’ve got to get The Den back to being a real difficult place to come.”

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