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Russell Martin keen to ‘keep pushing’ in-form Saints after climbing up to second

Southampton manager Russell Martin saw his side claim victory at Rotherham (Richard Sellers/PA)
Southampton manager Russell Martin saw his side claim victory at Rotherham (Richard Sellers/PA)

Southampton manager Russell Martin hailed his in-form side’s humility and hunger following their win at struggling Rotherham and urged them not to ease up during a “relentless month”.

First-half goals from Jan Bednarek and Adam Armstrong earned Saints a 2-0 victory at rock-bottom Rotherham to move up to second in the Championship standings.

The result at the AESSEAL New York Stadium also extended Southampton’s unbeaten run to 23 matches and Martin is looking for more of the same as they face six more games in a hectic February.

Martin said: “I really enjoyed the performance and the control we had.

“Their goalie made some really good saves and we should have scored a couple more goals. We limited them to very little.

“They really looked after each other. They fought so hard and ran so hard out of possession – especially from direct balls and long throws. It was really tough to play against.

“I am really proud of the players. It was a tough pitch compared to what the guys play on. The players said it was the toughest they have played on all season.

“We had a joke at breakfast about going 20-odd unbeaten and still being fourth. That’s the level of the competition, it’s outstanding and it’s great to be involved in. The lads are just head on and enjoying the opportunity.

“The players keep showing the humility and hunger. Hopefully we can keep enjoying this feeling for as long as possible. We will focus on ourselves and keep learning and growing as much as we can.

“It’s going to be a relentless month. We need to keep pushing the players.”

Centre-half Bednarek put Southampton in front with just four minutes on the clock when he reacted fastest to a ricochet in the box to head beyond Viktor Johansson.

Adam Armstrong netted the second in the 38th minute after Ryan Fraser had laid cleverly into his path for a simple finish.

The Millers then had Johansson to thank for keeping it to just two when he kept out Will Smallbone’s drive.

Southampton could afford to cruise through the second half but came close to adding a third when new lean signing David Brooks fired just off target.

Rotherham huffed and puffed after the break but could not get back into the game, with Gavin Bazunu denying them a late consolation when he kept out Ollie Rathbone’s volley.

Millers head coach Leam Richardson said: “Southampton were exactly what we expected. They’re a team full of quality and going very well. We knew the challenges we were going to face.

“The only disappointing thing is the way we started the game. Second half was more like us without creating massive chances.

“They could control the game a little bit more. It was a tough afternoon for the boys.”

Richardson knows he has to keep rallying his players after just one win going back to October.

He added: “We either feel sorry for ourselves and don’t do anything about it or we meet the challenges.

“We should never be OK with losing 2-0 to Southampton because we want a competitive environment.

“You either meet the challenge head on or you back off. I would rather go and be pro-active. If you’re going to lose, lose being the best version of yourself.

“The challenge was to go and win the second half and we possibly could have done.”