Mauricio Pochettino insists Saints have been hit hard by poor refereeing decisions in recent weeks.

The Saints boss was adamant his team should have had a penalty at Aston Villa when Ryan Bertrand appeared to block Nathaniel Clyne’s cross with his arm.

Referee Lee Mason turned down the penalty appeals, the latest in a string of such incidents that has infuriated Pochettino.

Previously the manager had been furious that Manchester City were awarded a penalty and an offside goal in Saints’ 4-1 defeat earlier this month.

Saints also thought they should have had a penalty for handball in the previous week’s home loss against Cardiff.

Talking about the Villa Park decision, Pochettino, right, said: “It was a clear penalty.

“You all probably had a better view from the TV but from my point of view it was a clear penalty.

“The linesman as well was quite close. It’s unexplainable to me why that penalty was not given.

“We feel hard done by because in the last few games we have had decisions that have not gone our way.

“If those decisions had gone our way, as they should have, then we would have more points right now.

“The players do not deserve the calls that have not been given because they should have been given. We would be higher in the table if those decisions had gone our way.”

That latter point is debatable as Saints are eight points adrift of the team immediately above them, Manchester United Pochettino was also a little frustrated at Saints’ inability to convert their chances at Villa Park as they drew a blank for the second week in a row, despite another good display.

“It’s exactly the point – we are playing really well but we need to be more clinical in front of goal. That’s what we’ve been lacking these last few games,” he said.

“We are frustrated because we haven’t got the results we have wanted, but at the same time we are very happy with the team’s performance.

“It seems as if we are team that is actually playing to get into the Champions League so we are happy in that sense.”

Pochettino used the stalemate to give minutes to youngsters Sam Gallagher and Harrison Reed as second half subs.

“It’s clear that at Southampton we have a project that is based around young players and we always want to nurture young talent. That’s what we’ve been doing this season,” he reflected.

“We want to support these young players, we want to give them chances and the two players are clear examples of that.

“It’s also clear that we have a short squad, we don’t have that many players within our squad.

“It’s very important we give these young players time to mature and experience what it is to be in the Premier League.”