MIDFIELDER Flynn Downes opened up on his illness struggle, admitting he tried to "rush" back from a suspected E. coli infection to play for Saints.

The 24 year old returned to the side to face Norwich City for their 1-1 draw on New Year's Day after missing three games in December.

Downes, whose move to Saints itself was delayed by food poisoning in the summer, was absent for games against Watford, Coventry City, and Plymouth Argyle. 

The West Ham loanee was ruled out of the latter two but returned to play an hour against Blackburn, QPR and Swansea before dropping out of the squad again. 

Downes has become an integral part of the Saints midfield and manager Russell Martin insists he will likely be rested for Saturday's clash with Walsall. 

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Downes said: "I have not spoken about Walsall as I was focusing on Norwich but It has been a tough three weeks, to be honest. 

Daily Echo: Flynn Downes has made 19 appearances for Saints this seasonFlynn Downes has made 19 appearances for Saints this season

"It feels like I have been running on empty for the whole three weeks. It was nice to get out there on Monday but I have had to tweak a few things.

"I have had to change my diet because my gut is all over the place. I felt better during the game so hopefully, that is the end of that for me."

He added: "I caught something completely different, I caught E. coli or something like that, and it completely wiped me out.

"I don't think the food poisoning before has helped me out. It was hard because I was trying to fuel up for the games and it was making me worse.

"Hopefully, we are done with that and I can put it behind me. I hate missing games, absolutely hate it - I am sure all the boys do.

"I hate it, especially when you're winning games and playing in a team like this so I was trying to rush myself back but that is just who I am."

Saints remain unbeaten in 18 Championship matches but Downes was unable to help his side to all three points at Carrow Road on Monday.

Adam Armstrong's opener was negated by a quick response from Norwich substitute Josh Sargent, while Downes made 85 minutes of the contest.

Downes said: "It was a tough pill to swallow to be honest as I thought we dominated the game throughout the 90 minutes and created a lot of chances.

"We're going away from home and dominating so it does feel like two points dropped but when we look back, it's 10 points over four games. 

"We'll take that and we still have our momentum, big time. It's 18 games unbeaten and we have to keep that going.

"We will be working hard to put that right as we have two weeks to our next Championship game."