Nigel Adkins praised Jason Puncheon’s performance after the winger’s strike earned Southampton a vital 1-0 win over Reading.
The 26-year-old struck on the hour to consign the Royals to a fourth straight defeat and lift Saints to 15th in the Premier League table.
Southampton have now won three of their past five Premier League games – a marked improvement on their early season form – and Adkins has been particularly impressed with Puncheon’s showings of late.
“He’s been excellent,” Adkins said. “He came in at pre-season, he looked fit, worked ever so hard, and he’s kept his place in the team on merit. All the plaudits he gets, he richly deserves. Well done to him.”
Southampton had several chances throughout the match to put the result beyond doubt and Puncheon almost scored earlier in the game, but his far-post header was ruled out for an apparent foul in the box.
“We had a perfectly good goal disallowed, but the one that we did score was exceptional,” he said.
Reading manager Brian McDermott, however, was disappointed to see his side fail to come back from conceding the goal.
“It was very unusual for us; when we went one behind we didn’t respond the way we normally would do,” he said.
“Over the last three years I’ve always had great responses from the players, but I didn’t get that today. We played so well with the ball last week (in the 4-3 defeat) against Manchester United and created numerous chances, but we didn’t create enough today.”
When asked if Tuesday’s match at Sunderland had extra pertinence given the defeat, he said: “It’s the same. It’s a game of football that we want to try and win. What’s happened today is gone and there’s nothing we can do about it.”