Nigel Adkins pointed to the draw with Arsenal as a measure of how far his Saints side has come this season.
The manager was delighted for his hard-working players who fought hard to secure a third successive draw in the Barclays Premier League, a result which lifts Southampton out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Arsenal were fresh from drubbing Newcastle 7-3, and Adkins felt that his team should take all the credit for keeping a rampant Gunners side quiet at St Mary’s.
He told Saints Player: “There’s been a growing maturity about ourselves and when you look at the start of the campaign to where we are now we have come a hell of a long way.
“It’s only two defeats in ten that we’ve had, we’ve played Arsenal and I thought we were very good again today. Tactically I thought we were spot on, we had a good defensive shape about ourselves in what we were doing.
“Arsenal have been spanking teams for fun of late, scoring goals and they’ve got massive threats which we’ve nullified.”
Ahead of the fourth game in ten days for his side, Nigel rotated his squad again with Artur Boruc coming into the team, goal scorer Gaston Ramirez returning, whilst Jack Cork played at right back, which the gaffer felt worked to good effect.
“They’re the decisions that you’ve got to go and make as a manager,” he explained. “Artur has had a shaky little start to the game, but he’s gathered his composure and that’s what you know you’re going to get when you’ve got an experienced goalkeeper.
“He’s been very impressive in training, his attitude has been outstanding so I’ve given him the opportunity today. Everyone knows how much I like Kelvin I think he’s top drawer, but I look at Jack Cork as well who got man of the match and what a great job he did in there.
“Jack Cork and Luke Shaw at full back I thought were outstanding. Jose and Maya in the heart of defence have kept Theo Walcott very, very quiet there, but when we’ve got the ball, we’ve moved it about well and created opportunities.
“We freshened up the middle of the park with Steven Davis and Gaston Ramirez going in there. I know that you have to do that because Arsenal put three in there and they keep the ball well normally, but I also thought we had a good defensive shape and resolve about us, then when we got the ball we moved it around well too.
“I changed it the other day when we looked at the Stoke game, I put Jos Hooiveld in there who came in and did ever so well because we knew all about the aerial threat that Stoke have and the bombardment that followed.
Everyone has to turn around and praise the way we played at Stoke, but Maya and Jose were top drawer tonight because they kept Theo Walcott quiet who has given all sorts of problems to Premier League defences.”
Saints finished the Christmas schedule unbeaten in three games, and Adkins believes this will be a springboard to the second half of the season.
“Arsenal are a good side, and got at us, but we got a good grip on it and I think great credit to the players because they’ve worked hard yet again on the back of the Stoke performance where they’ve worked hard, and we’ve had another rotation of the players for freshness, but the players deserve a lot of credit.
“Tactically, we were bang on and it was a good performance.
“Our endeavour is to win every game,” he added. “It was a spawny goal that they’ve scored, but I’ve no doubt that our fortunes will change in that respect because we’ll keep working hard,.
“The players deserve credit because they keep on going and it underlines form where we were at the start of the season to where we are now. We’re progressing as we should be.”