NIGEL Adkins surveyed his side’s 1-1 St Mary’s draw with Arsenal and reflected “we’ve come a hell of a long way.”

It said a lot about Saints’ Premier League progress that they came off the field disappointed to have only drawn with a Gunners team that have been scoring goals for fun of late.

The result, which saw Saints take the lead through Gaston Ramirez before Guly Do Prado’s unfortunate own goal levelled things up, made it three back-toback draws for Adkins and his team.

The latest point lifted Saints out of the bottom three and above Wigan, who had been thrashed at home by Manchester United earlier in the day.

“There has been a growing maturity about ourselves,” said Adkins.

“We look at the start of the campaign and you look at now and we’ve come a hell of a long way.

“It’s only two defeats in ten, we played Arsenal and we were very good.

“Tactically we were spot on, we had a good defensive shape about ourselves and what we were doing.

“Arsenal have been spanking teams for fun of late, scoring for fun, they’ve got a massive threat and we’ve nullified that.

Jack Cork and Luke Shaw were outstanding and Jose and Maya at the heart of the defence kept Theo Walcott very quiet.

“We got the ball, moved the ball about and created opportunities.

“After the first five minutes where Arsenal were a good side we have gone and got a grip of it.

“Great credit to the players because they have worked hard on the back of the Stoke performance.

“There was a rotation of the players and they deserve a lot of credit for a good performance.”

Despite having admitted that he got things tactically correct, Adkins was keen to shift the praise on to the players.

“Our endeavour is to win every game,” said the Saints boss.

“It’s a spawny goal they’ve gone and scored off his toe and we’ve said that a few times.

“Our fortunes I know will change because we keep working hard.

“The players deserve a lot of credit because they keep working and they keep going.

“People might knock them but they keep going and it just underlines from where we started the season to where we are now we’ve come a hell of a long way.

“We’re progressing as we should be.”

Adkins declared himself delighted with the changes he made last night from the team that drew with Stoke.

Saints were looking to contain a slick passing Arsenal team rather than a physically strong Stoke side.

And, with Nathaniel Clyne still injured, Adkins moved Jack Cork to right back and drafted Steven Davis and goalscorer Ramirez into the side, as well as recalling keeper Artur Boruc.

That meant Jos Hooiveld and Jay Rodriguez missed out, after both had won a recall at the Britannia Stadium.

“Jack Cork has got man of the match,” said Adkins.

“I know he played there (right back) for England (under-21s) and we freshened it up in the middle of the park with Steven Davis and Gaston Ramirez in there.

“You have to do that as Arsenal play a three in there and keep the ball well normally.

We had a good defensive shape and resolve about ourselves and when we got the ball we moved it well.”

He added: “I changed it the other day.

“We looked at the Stoke game and the aerial threat and Jos came in and did ever so well.

“We knew that the aerial threat and bombardment of Stoke would come.

“Everyone has to turn round and be pleased with the way the lads played at Stoke.

“They are foolish if they don’t.

“Maya and Jose were top drawer because they kept Theo Walcott, who has been giving all sorts of problems to defences, very quiet.

“The back four was top drawer and great credit to them.

“All the players deserve a lot of praise.”