Saints stepped up their pre-season preparations with a 3-2 win over Jiangsu Suning in China.

Sam Gallagher scored a second half winner as Mark Hughes gave many of his players extended game time as they signed off for their Far Eastern tour with a victory.

The game in the impressive Xuzhou Olympic Stadium saw Hughes play the majority with a 3-4-2-1 system and proved a good workout with Saints’ opponents already well into their Chinese Super League season.

The game had an uninspiring start, but Saints were on top. Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond both tried their luck but couldn’t find the target before Saints grabbed the lead on 26 minutes.

It came as a result of superb work from £7m summer signing Armstrong, who showed great strength on the right touchline to hold the ball up, and then turned out and cut back on to his left foot.

He lifted a perfectly weighted lobbed cross into the box that found Manolo Gabbiadini, easily pulling off the shoulder of his marker and cushioning a guided header back across goal and into the far corner.

However, the joy was short lived as Jiangsu Suning equalised just three minutes later.

It was one simple pass which split Jack Stephens and Wesley Hoedt and played in Zhang Lingfeng, who produced an excellent low first-time finish with the outside of his right boot past Alex McCarthy.

Saints were stunned on 34 minutes as their Chinese opponents took the lead.

Yang Boyu helped a chipped free kick back across goal and it was only half cleared by Stephens’ header to Richmond Boakye, one of the Super League side’s overseas players. He brought it down and quickly dispatched a half volley finish which McCarthy got fingertips to but couldn’t quite keep out.

Saints did get into the break level though as James Ward-Prowse played in a right wing corner that keeper Li Haitao, making a debut to forget, came for and got nowhere near and, in a rush of blood to the head, chased the ball out towards the edge of the area even though he had no chance of reaching it.

Redmond stayed cool to slot home an accurate side footed finish from 20 yards into the unguarded net.

Hughes made four changes at half time and the second half was a more lacklustre affair.

Saints were again clearly the superior side, but they failed to convert that into as many chances as they may have liked.

Ward-Prowse’s deflected free kick clipped the top of the crossbar just two minutes after the restart while Redmond picked out the keeper and Hoedt shot wide from distance.

It was Jiangsu Suning who might have taken the lead on 56 minutes as a ball down the left played in Boakye one-on-one after a slip from Hoedt.

Fraser Forster, who replaced McCarthy at the break, did a great job of standing tall and saved with his outstretched leg as the Ghanaian striker tried to find the far corner.

With a further five Saints changes midway through the half – as well as a raft of substitutions from Jiangsu Suning - stifling much rhythm there wasn’t a lot to write home about until Saints grabbed the winner on 77 minutes.

Two of those subs, Steven Davis and Sam Gallagher, combined with a superb one-two, allowing the big striker the chance to open up his body and finish right footed into the opposite corner to bag Saints a win.

The result made it one draw and one victory in China for Saints, who travel to Bangkok tomorrow before jetting back home on Friday.

Saints: McCarthy (Forster 45), Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand (Reed 64), Ward-Prowse (Davis 64), Romeu (Hojbjerg 45), Lemina (Clasie 64), Targett (McQueen 45), Armstrong (Sims 64), Redmond (Gallagher 64), Gabbiadini (Austin 45).