Nathan Redmond could be returning to his “natural” best at just the right time, according to Southampton boss Mark Hughes.
Redmond came off the bench to head Saints into a 1-0 lead at Everton on Saturday, only for the visitors to leak a late goal to leave Goodison Park with a frustrating draw.
Hughes’ men now face Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night in a Premier League survival shoot-out, with either side able to take a giant step towards safety with victory.
Boss Hughes believes Redmond has been suffering a crisis of confidence amid Saints’ struggles, but now hopes the 24-year-old can hit back to form at the perfect moment.
“I haven’t been at the club that long and I think it was just Nathan, he is basically an outstanding player, he lost a little bit of confidence maybe and that was evident in his play,” Hughes told the Southern Daily Echo.
“Sometimes he was being too sure, rather than being the natural player he is but I thought he was excellent when he came on, clearly understood what was required of him and when we made the change, that shows he is engaged and focused on what is happening on the pitch.
“I obviously had to make the decision not to start him so he was disappointed with that but it didn’t affect his focus on the game itself because that was why he was able to make the impact he did.”
Saints must do without Maya Yoshida for their Swansea trip, with the Japan defender suspended after his red card at Everton.
Midfielder Mario Lemina could miss out too after picking up a hamstring problem on Merseyside, while Steven Davies continues to battle Achilles trouble.
Former Stoke boss Hughes insists Southampton’s confidence will not be dented by Saturday’s last-gasp draw, with Tom Davies’ deflected strike denying the visitors victory in the sixth minute of added time.
“It’s a quick turnaround so we can’t dwell on this one,” Hughes told Southampton’s official club website.
“As I said when we came through the door, we have to look at what’s ahead of us. We’ve got a huge game very quickly and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“I don’t think we’re in any way damaged by the consequences of the game in terms of confidence, so we’ll be ready to go again and it’s up to us to get the job done.
“We’ve got two games left and everybody is writing the Man City one off. We’ll give that one a go as well, but clearly the Swansea one is one that we can really decide our own fate.”