Southampton got back to their best on Sunday as they claimed a dominant 3-1 victory away at Watford and took their points tally to 40 in the process.
A brace from Danny Ings took him to 21 goals for the season and put Saints 2-0 up, but an own-goal from Jan Bednarek gave the hosts at Vicarage Road a way back into the match.
However, James Ward-Prowse’s excellent free-kick eight minutes from time restored the Saints advantage and meant a comfortable end to the afternoon.
Saints worked their way into the game early on and enjoyed a good spell of possession before Shane Long’s shot provided the first work of the afternoon for Ben Foster early on.
It was a comparatively slow start from Watford and that eventually proved costly for them in the 16th minute as – you guessed it – Danny Ings took full advantage.
The 27-year-old took his season’s tally to 20 in all competitions when he received a pass from Will Smallbone midway into the Watford half, spun and advanced towards the penalty area and ended the move with a quick finish into the far corner – a typical Ings finish that gave Ben Foster no chance at all.
James Ward-Prowse then had a hooked effort from close-range that he should have done better with on the stretch, but the rest of the first-half went exactly how Saints would have wanted.
Watford failed to test Alex McCarthy and failed to build up any attacking momentum due to many pauses in the play.
Each of Shane Long, Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse went down and needed treatment at different times, whilst there was also a drinks break midway through the first period.
In all, it had been a controlled performance from Saints and they were looking much more intricate when piecing together a move than they did against Arsenal on Thursday, but could they continue this into the second-half?
Yes, was the answer, with a little help from opposing goalkeeper Ben Foster.
On 70 minutes, Foster tried to bowl the ball out to his left-back. However, Ings was alive to this and seized upon the opportunity – advancing towards the box menacingly before firing in yet another goal into the far corner.
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With ten minutes to go though, Watford – who had seen little goalmouth action throughout – had a way back into the contest.
An awkward cross came in from the left and caused uncertainty at the back for Saints, and Jan Bednarek was unfortunate to slice a sliding clearance past his own goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
Past Saints teams may have buckled under late pressure, but not this one.
Instead, they advanced forward looking to get that two-goal lead once again and had an ideal opportunity to do so when substitute Che Adams won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
James Ward-Prowse stood over the ball from a position that looked perfect for him and very awkward for Ben Foster, and there was really no doubt as to what was going to happen.
The Saints midfielder produced another of his set-piece specials as he whipped the ball with pace and just enough dip into the far corner of the net – ultimately securing Saints another precious win and 40 points for the season.
The visitors to Vicarage Road wanted to add more to their tally. Che Adams went agonisingly close to his first competitive goal but saw Foster pull off a good save one-on-one, and then Nathan Redmond was unlucky to see his curling effort hit the base of the far post.
In all though, the result never looked to be going any other way and Saints will definitely be playing in the Premier League again next year. The fact that Ralph Hasenhuttl made five changes ahead of this one and still got a reaction will be pleasing for the Austrian.
The performances of Jannik Vestergaard and Kyle Walker-Peters are particularly worthy of praise because of their individual situations, and it appears that the squad as a whole is getting to grips with Hasenhuttl’s style – a potential recipe for success in 2020/21.
Foster, Femenia (Pussetto 79), Dawson, Cathcart, Masina (Holebas 74), Hughes (Welbeck 73), Capoue, Sarr, Doucoure, Pereyra (Joao Pedro 74), Deeney
Subs not used: Gomes, Mariappa, Cleverly, Penaranda, Kabasele
McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Smallbone (Armstrong 65), Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Redmond, Long (Adams 75), Ings
Subs not used: Gunn, Danso, Valery, Vokins, Jankewitz, Obafemi, Tella