Tuesday 20 November 2018

Mark Hughes confident Southampton can avoid the drop

Saints are just one point above the drop zone.

Southampton manager Mark Hughes remains confident they can avoid relegation.
Southampton manager Mark Hughes remains confident they can avoid relegation.

By Carl Markham, Press Association Sport

Southampton manager Mark Hughes remains confident his side can complete the job he was brought in to achieve and escape relegation.

Saints were dealt a cruel blow when Everton’s Tom Davies equalised in the sixth minute of added time to snatch a much-needed victory from their hands in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

Although the result lifted the side out of the bottom three they are above Tuesday’s opponents Swansea on goal difference alone and are actually in no better position than when Hughes took over.

When the Welshman was brought in to replace Mauricio Pellegrino in mid-March with the club 17th – their current spot – but just one point above the drop zone.

Southampton lost four of Hughes’ first five league matches in charge but four points from their last two games, even accounting for the devastating late blow at Everton, has given the manager encouragement.

“We played well and have gone away out of the bottom three,” said Hughes, who is likely to recall Nathan Redmond for the midweek game after his first goal in almost a year.

“It is only the circumstances of the game which are affecting us at the moment.

“But we have a quick turnaround and we can go again. We were great last weekend, we were great again (against Everton) and we will be great again on Tuesday I am sure.

“It was difficult circumstances. What did I have eight games? I think I came in and made an impact with a group which is really strong at the moment.

“The fixtures weren’t kind – we’ve had two home games, we have one to come against Manchester City , and the rest away games and it was never going to be easy.

“But we have had a go and we are out of the bottom three. We just have to make sure we are after the next two games we have left.”

Everton were booed off at half-time and full-time and barely a third of Goodison Park remained for the post-match lap of appreciation by the players – not attended by manager Sam Allardyce because of his media commitments.

A win in their final match at West Ham would guarantee an eighth-placed finish, one position and nine points worse off than under Ronald Koeman last season.

Allardyce’s record since taking over in November is 34 points from 23 matches and while he believes the turnaround is a worthy one fans are less impressed.

He took over with the club in 13th, five points above the bottom three zone and 10 points from his first four matches quickly banished any relegation fears.

Since then the club have recorded just six wins and supporters have become increasingly disenchanted, primarily with the manager, but Allardyce feels they should see the wider picture.

“I have every praise for the efforts they (the players) put in. They have done a magnificent job and avoided any problems in terms of this so-called relegation battle,” he said.

“They put that to bed ages and ages ago. We all want to perform better sometimes but at the end it is a results game and results matter first. Results coupled with better performances come later.”

Unable to call on many of his senior, and arguably better, players against Southampton Allardyce was disappointed with their replacements.

“I think Theo (Walcott), Gylfi (Sigurdsson), Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin left us slightly short at the front end and unfortunately the players who stepped in who were supposed to breach that gap didn’t do it,” he added.

Press Association

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