Matchwinner José Fonte hailed a “faultless” display from defensive partner Maya Yoshida, as Saints triumphed 1-0 at Hull.
Fonte bagged the only goal of the game, in a second-half goalmouth scramble, but he took as much pleasure from blanking the home side’s attack as he did in netting the winner.
“They’re a very good team,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Steve Bruce and the way he sets up his team.
“We knew it would be one of the hardest games of the season away from home.
“We dug deep, I thought we showed a lot of character and desire and belief in the way we play, and we got the reward with the three points and a very important clean sheet.”
Fonte was full of praise for his fellow centre half, Yoshida, who helped keep Hull’s front pairing of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long quiet.
“I thought Maya was excellent,” said Fonte of the Japan international, who has been deputising for the injured Dejan Lovren.
“Very, very good, very strong, good in the air – he was faultless, so great credit to him.
“Jelavic and Long are two of the best strikers in the Premier League in my opinion.
“They work very hard, they don’t give you a second of rest, and tonight was the same.
“So it was a hard night for us, but I felt in general we dealt well with them.”
Saints were largely dominant last night, which is no mean feat against a Hull team that are strong at home.
Fonte explained that the visitors had executed their gameplan exactly how they had hoped.
“Our strategy was always push up, keep the high line, keep pressing so they have to play it back to the goalkeeper, and when they kick it long then we drop and we win the header or the second ball,” he said.
“The worst thing we could do would be to sit back on the edge of our box, and then we would cause trouble, because that’s what they’re good at.”
Even though Hull were trying to push forward for an equaliser in the latter stages of the match, Saints always appeared to have them at arm’s length, and Fonte put part of that down to the squad’s physical conditioning.
“It’s great credit to the set-up that the manager has put in, the work that we did in pre-season, which was very, very hard by the way,” he said.
“It’s paying off, because we feel strong, we feel we can go for ages, keep going, keep pressing.”