MANAGER Ralph Hasenhuttl insisted talented youngster Will Smallbone had taken a “step forward” in his development - before being forced off through injury against Leicester City.

Smallbone was drafted into Saints’ starting XI for the first time since the inaugural day of the season – and looked lively for the opening hour at King Power Stadium.

But following a nasty collision with Leicester’s Timothy Castagne, the Republic of Ireland under-21 international had to be taken off in the 2-0 Premier League defeat – replaced by Dan N’Lundulu.

Hasenhuttl told the BBC: “We have again injured players. Will is not looking good, his knee – and now are coming a lot of games. I hope that players are coming back as soon as possible.”

Also speaking in his post-match press conference, the Austrian boss said: “We know that we have a lot of injuries and the guys are coming in, they must immediately step up on the highest level because it’s Premier League.

“Will was good. He was fighting and had a few good moments, we had a few chances in the first half also.

“I like him more in the 10 position than the six position. He had some good solutions, he also had some good chances on Saturday - one good chance to score.

“He’s a good footballer and learns to work against the ball also.

“Also, he was fighting very hard. It was a step forward in his development, definitely.

“This is the team I want to see. Brave, not scared against a strong side – a good international team. It’s definitely for us tough to come here but we played a good game.”