Nigel Adkins stressed the importance of Saints beating the teams around them after they boosted their Premier League survival chances with a well-deserved win against Reading.

The records will show that it was Jason Puncheon’s second-half goal that separated the sides at St Mary’s, but in truth the gap in quality was far greater than that.

Had Saints lost, they would have dropped to 19th in the table, level on points with the Royals but behind them on goal difference.

However, victory meant that Adkins’ side climbed up to 15th and moved six points clear of the club that pipped them to the Championship title last term.

“I am pleased that we have got a home victory, pleased that we have beaten someone close to us in the league – that is the important thing,” said Adkins, whose side kept the opposition out for only the second time this term and are now two points above the drop zone.

“I am delighted have a clean sheet. We scored one goal, could have scored more.”

Saints did in fact score more than one, only to have another effort from Puncheon ruled out for what appeared to be a phantom foul.

The midfielder headed in Adam Lallana’s first-half corner, but referee Jon Moss blew his whistle and penalised Maya Yoshida for an alleged infringement on Reading keeper Adam Federici.

Replays showed that the goal should have stood.

“It’s a perfectly good goal,” agreed Adkins. “The goalkeeper’s obviously pushed Maya, who’s standing in and around him, slips over, Jason’s unmarked at the far post, puts the ball in the back of the net, and for me the referee’s made a poor decision.

“But you’ve got to get on with it and we’ve gone and got our three points.”

Adkins added: “We talk about it all the time, it’s the importance of winning your home games.

“We put a good performance in to win the game and it’s important to win the games against the teams who are in and around you in the league.

“Obviously, winning at home, and winning against a team that were in and around us, was pleasing.”

The Saints boss did admit, however, that the victory should have been more comfortable than it was.

“We dominated the game, we were worthy winners,” he said.

“The amount of chances we created, if anything we should have put a few more in the back of the net.

“We’re good at St Mary’s. The crowd get behind the players. We played a good tempo of football, a variety of attacks and it was a good 1-0 victory.”