Russell Martin hopes Southampton can kick their Sky Bet Championship campaign on again after putting a bad run of form behind them with a 1-0 win over Stoke.
Stuart Armstrong’s first-half free-kick proved the difference at the bet365 Stadium as Saints secured back-to-back victories, while the Potters slipped to their fifth loss in seven Championship games.
The victory in the Potteries followed a 3-1 triumph versus Leeds last Saturday and the successive wins came after a four-game losing run, with Martin hoping their toughest moment of the season has been and gone.
“I think it’s been two of our best performances, tonight I think was probably our best one, our most complete one,” he said.
“I feel like we should have scored a couple more goals and we limited them to very little really, although they threw everything at us in the end.
“To follow up the effort it took on Saturday to come here and such a tough place, a good team with a really excellent manager, to come here and do what we did, I’m really proud of the boys.
“They’re playing for each other, they’re playing for us and the last two games will hopefully come at the end of the toughest moment we’ll have together.
“I think every team has a tough period and ours has come early on after a good start and playing against a really difficult fixture schedule.
“We found a bit of rhythm now and hopefully we can maintain that.”
Alex Neil, while proud of Stoke’s efforts, voiced frustration at key refereeing decisions including Josh Laurent’s foul on Armstrong for the winning free-kick and Nathan Lowe being bundled over by Jan Bednarek after the break which he felt was a penalty.
He said: “I think all you ever ask your team to do and individual players is to give everything they’ve got and I thought we got that.
“I don’t think we can have any complaints in terms of the efforts of the players.
“We got undone by one moment of quality where the ball ends up in the top corner.
“I think certainly if you look at the foul that they get for their goal and you look at the foul in the box, if you’re going to compare both in terms of contact.
“I think if you look at the two directives at the start of the season, one was based around soft contact for fouls and not buying into soft contact, which I thought for the first foul was really soft, and the other was was timewasting, and I didn’t think any of the directives this evening were carried out well enough in terms of the game at all.”