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Russell Martin says win over Leeds was “huge moment” in Southampton’s season

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 Sep 2023

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Russell Martin has insisted Southampton are through their “toughest period” of the season after beating Leeds 3-1.

Adam Armstrong’s classy double and Will Smallbone’s first league goal for Saints – all in the first half – helped end a four-game losing streak.

Pascal Struijk pulled one back for the visitors in the second half but Martin was thrilled to get back to winning ways.

The Saints boss said: “I’m really proud of the players. The feeling in the camp has been great considering the results we’ve had and they’ve gone all in today.

“We scored some goals of the highest quality and hopefully the fans enjoyed them and it gives the players energy.

“Hopefully that will be the toughest period we go through and the most difficult moments we go through in the season.

“We have learned a lot to come through it and to come through a team like Leeds, who will be up there at the end of the season.

“It will be a huge moment for us. The spirit, aggression and mentality of the team today was where we need to live.”

Saints were ahead after 104 seconds when Kyle Walker-Peters threaded through to Armstrong, before the forward deftly clipped over Illan Meslier.

Winger Kamaldeen Sulemana then set up Smallbone to divert in to the bottom corner and then fired across the box to allow Armstrong to fire in.

They were Armstrong’s sixth and seventh goals of the season.

“He’s been amazing and runs hard for the team,” said Martin, who played Armstrong on the right wing.

“He can play in a number of roles and the one at the moment really suits us.

“I told him he’d play there for a bit and he’s getting better and better.

“He is a threat wherever he plays and I trust him with whatever we ask him to do, and he does it.”

Leeds coach Daniel Farke kept his side in the dressing room until the last possible moment and his extra details worked 13 minutes after the restart.

A corner bobbled around the box before Struijk pulled the ball down on the swivel to poke home.

Farke said he remained calm during the break, adding: “I wanted to give the players the chance to show a reaction in the second half.

“I didn’t want to make two or three substitutions at half time and embarrass them, I didn’t get the feeling that two or three players were to blame.

“On 99 per cent of all cases as a manager that at half time being 3-0 down I would have thrown bottles and killed someone.

“Today I got the feeling that we had been unlucky and concentrated on how we could turn the game. I talked calmly about winning the second half – and I got the exact reaction I wanted.

“What decided the game was our defensive behaviour, it was not spot on like in the last four games – where we have four clean sheets.

“We needed to be more aware and awake in the decisive moments but apart from the goals I can’t remember a situation when Meslier had to make a save.

“Sometimes tiny little moments can make a big difference. When you are 3-0 down at half-time it is always difficult to return with the points.”

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