RALPH Hasenhuttl praised the work Fraser Forster has done away from the spotlight since returning to Saints, labelling him the club's "number one B" goalkeeper.

The 32-year-old made just his second appearance for the club in more than three years when he stood in for Alex McCarthy, who was self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, for last Monday's clash against Liverpool.

The only other time Forster featured under Hasenhuttl was in May 2019, with his previous appearance for the club before that coming in December 2017.

Before opting to return to the south coast last summer, Forster spent the 2019-20 campaign out on loan at former club Celtic, helping them clinch the Scottish Premiership title.

And the Hexham-born ace impressed on his return to the Saints side against the Reds, keeping a clean sheet in the 1-0 St Mary's triumph.

Reflecting on the the impressive victory, Hasenhuttl says the work the six-time England international has done with Saints goalkeeping coach Andrew Sparkes behind the scenes came to the fore against Liverpool.

"It shows how good the guys are working with the goalkeeper coach and how strong they have developed every part of their game so far," said Hasenhuttl.

"I think this is a good signal for us that we immediately have a ‘number one B’ that steps in and plays a fantastic game.

"A clean sheet against Liverpool in the first game, this is fantastic for us."

Speaking after the game, Forster admitted he felt "a little bit rusty" during his first competitive match in 10 months.

Asked how he prepared Forster for the fixture against the Premier League champions, Hasenhuttl said: "We take him all the time in the rondos to learn how to be calm on the ball and play football against maybe the best pressing team in the league (Liverpool), where it’s very difficult to play football.

"But we still tried. Not from the goal-kick, but when we had the ball in the midfield we tried to keep it sometimes. We had some good movements but it’s tough against them.

"When you lose the ball, it’s tough to defend. But the game plan was perfect."

Forster was set to keep his spot for Saturday's FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury Town before it was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak at the Shropshire club.

Saints are next due in action at Leicester in the Premier League on Saturday, where McCarthy could return.