28 January 2024

They won’t accept being beaten – Russell Martin hails Southampton’s mentality

28 January 2024

Russell Martin hailed his players for keeping Southampton’s unbeaten run going via the late goal that secured a 1-1 FA Cup draw at Watford.

It had looked as though Matheus Martins’ early free-kick might turn out to be enough for the Hornets but substitute Stuart Armstrong’s leveller ensured there will be a replay at St Mary’s and extended Saints’ club-record run to 22 matches dating back to September.

The winners will travel to Liverpool in the last 16, with Jurgen Klopp’s side having beaten Norwich 5-2 at Anfield in another tie that was on the go when the fifth-round draw was made.

Manager Martin made nine changes to his usual league line-up but the second-half introduction of four experienced faces saw the tie saved.

He said of his players: “They have amazing mentality, they were relentless in the second half and the last half-hour in particular. They just won’t accept being beat, which is an amazing trait for any team to have and they deserved that.

“The goal was a rubbish one to concede, really poor. I said to the guys at half-time we just lacked a bit of aggression. There was a lot of disappointment because they wanted so badly to take their opportunity.

“We took that frustration into the second half and the guys who came on had a real impact in the game. We scored a little bit too late but we still kept trying to win it.

“It was a proper cup tie and the atmosphere was great. We had 4,000 fans on a Sunday afternoon in not the most glamorous of cup ties against a club in the same division that we have already played once this season.”

Martin felt the prospect of a trip to Anfield would be a big incentive for both sides to win the replay.

He said: “To play at Liverpool is a huge opportunity in Jurgen Klopp’s last season as manager. We have a number of players coming back from injury who will hopefully be ready for that game as well.”

Watford manager Valerien Ismael, who had made six changes, was disappointed his players could not hold out for the win.

But he argued holding Saints to successive 1-1 draws in the space of a few weeks – Watford scoring a late equaliser of their own on December 9 – was an achievement in itself.

“We needed a second goal – or to keep a clean sheet,” he said. “We were solid, disciplined and well-organised and over the the 90 minutes the mentality and the desire was there.

“The only thing I will say is we need to be more composed. We lost the ball too many times. If you want to become a top team you need to control the ball.

“At the end we put on players who are not fit at the moment and you could see the pace dropped but they need game time.

“We competed well against them, for the second time at home.

“We had quite a lot of chances, we were very dangerous but we ran out of energy to push and get the clean sheet to win the game.

“It showed we are able to compete with them. The second game will be interesting.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox