SAINTS manager Russell Martin revealed Alex McCarthy has been absent due to a minor injury, but insists the shot-stopper is "very close".

The 34 year old has made only one appearance for Saints this season as he serves as second choice to Republic of Ireland international Gavin Bazunu.

That came in the EFL Cup, when McCarthy and a rotated Saints side were dumped out of the competition in the first round 3-1 by League Two Gillingham. 

McCarthy was not in the squad for either victory over Bristol City or Cardiff City, while Joe Lumley was named as a substitute, and under-21s stopper Adli Mohamed stepped up.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Martin confirmed: "Alex has got a minor strain so was not involved this past week. He is very close and will possibly be involved this week but, if not, the next.

"Joe Lumley is unfortunately number three at the minute and he is not used to that in his career, but he has been amazing.

Daily Echo: Southampton's Joe Lumley during the Championship match between Southampton and Leicester at St Mary's Stadium. Photo by Stuart Martin.

"The value he has added, the energy and voice, the want to win in training to push the other two goalkeepers. If he had to come on or play at all, it would be no problem."

Martin continued: "Adli has really stepped up in training and Dean (Thornton) has a tight-knit group of goalkeepers with a good blend of youth and experience.

"They are all pushing Gavin and it's no surprise Gavin's performances keep improving, they have to keep driving on the same as anyone else out on the pitch."

Bazunu is set to start again when Saints visit Watford on Saturday, hunting a third clean sheet in a row for the first time in a Saints shirt.