FORWARD Sekou Mara admitted he is brimming with confidence after his brace helped Saints set up a fifth round FA Cup tie against Liverpool.

The French forward scored twice in six minutes before Che Adams put the replay against Watford beyond doubt on Tuesday evening.

Mara, 21, was also denied a first half assist when Adams saw a close range shot brilliantly saved by Watford's Daniel Bachmann.

“I wanted to score a hat-trick, but we won 3-0 and that is more important," Mara smiled, when speaking to the Daily Echo.

“It is all about the work you put in. When you work all through the week every month then things are instinctive.

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“When you work hard and you score during the game there is more freedom in your mind – that is why I tried the bicycle kick.

"I think I'm working hard and the team works well. Everything around me pushes me to be a better player and a better person.

"We are doing well this year. We are playing really good. I enjoy playing in this team."

Mara's brilliant second half came after a slow 45 minutes, during which he struggled to apply the required touch in the final third.

Speaking after the game, manager Russell Martin made it clear that he was not pleased with how Southampton started the game.

The boss admitted his half-time team talk revolved around ensuring his players attacked the second half with the correct "mentality".

"He (Russell Martin) was angry about the first half because we didn't show enough," Mara continued.

"I think in the second half we showed more intensity - our mentality changed. It was a different game."

A number of teams expressed their interest in signing Mara on loan during the winter transfer window - Premier League side Sheffield United reportedly among them.

Daily Echo: Southampton's Sekou Mara attempts an overhead kick.Southampton's Sekou Mara attempts an overhead kick. (Image: PA)

After sitting down with Martin, Jason Wilcox and his agent, the decision was made for the French youth international to stay at St Mary's.

Martin has previously expressed how much he enjoys working with Mara - and praised his attitude to improve every week.

Asked by the Daily Echo about the transfer speculation swirling around him, the forward said: "I am still here and I am playing - I have nothing more to say."

Mara's brace took his tally for the season up to five - with three of those coming in the FA Cup.

After a tough start to the campaign, which saw his minutes limited, the former Bordeaux man is starting to look more at home in Martin's system. 

"When you are unbeaten for 24 games it means you are doing the right things," he replied, when asked how much he enjoys working with Martin. 

"We are playing really good and working hard. You can see that on the pitch. There is really good competition for places here at Southampton. 

"We don't have any bad players. We are all pushing each other to be better players."