Southampton boss Russell Martin felt Che Adams’ stoppage-time winner against Plymouth was no coincidence after a “relentless” second-half showing from his side at Home Park.
The clash between last season’s League One champions Argyle and relegated Premier League side Saints looked set to end in a draw after Ryan Hardie quickly cancelled out Nathan Tella’s 49th-minute opener for the visitors.
But, with four minutes of added time played, Adams snatched victory for Southampton when he turned the ball home at the far post after Plymouth keeper Conor Hazard had palmed out Adam Armstrong’s goal-bound header from a corner.
Martin said: “The late goal is no coincidence, the amount of work we put into the opposition for games.
“The last half an hour, we were really impressive, really dominant.
“I really wasn’t happy with the first half; I told the players that at half-time and I think they feel the same way.
“We have to be really demanding, I said to them we will have a lot of good moments but there will be tough moments.”
One of those tough moments came just a minute before Adams’ late winner, when Plymouth forward Morgan Whittaker struck the post for the hosts.
Martin, whose side now have seven points from their opening three Championship games, added: “We had plenty of tough moments today in the first half and it was our doing and I was frustrated at that. But the way they responded at half-time, they were brilliant.
“The only downside was conceding a goal so soon after conceding. But the character to come back was impressive. Last season was such a disappointing season for everyone and the supporters as well. Their response to the goal we conceded was amazing.
“The players were relentless in the second half and that is what we need to be.
“We will learn as we are building.
“We will improve, there is a lot to improve on. I was really pleased with the mentality of the players, it has given us the belief, the connection with each other.”
Plymouth’s loss was the first in the Championship since winning promotion, having picked up four points from their opening two games.
Argyle boss Steven Schumacher believes his side can take confidence from their performance despite the late disappointment.
He said: “It was a good standard with some real high quality moments in the game from both teams.
“We played our part and probably edged the first half. The second half Southampton came into the game a little bit more.
“They had the huge spells of possession that we expected but all of the time I thought we were always in the game and to lose it like that right at the end of the game is a bit gutting, a bit of a sucker-punch but that’s football, it can be cruel sometimes.
“We still had five minutes to go so I thought we’d get one back. That’s been a trait of our team over the past couple of seasons. We never give in, we never sit back and accept defeat and we kept pushing with four minutes to go and had a couple of chances from set-plays.
“On another day one of them goes in but I can’t fault the lads’ effort. They gave us everything they had today.
“I felt we had the gameplan right and caused Southampton loads of problems.
“I don’t think we started the second half very well and they got momentum right from the kick off and then managed to score.
“But again the lads responded brilliantly and produced a lovely goal from a well-worked move and a great finish by Ryan and it shows once again we can compete at this level. We should grow in confidence from it.”