MANAGER Russell Martin "felt sick" about leaving Shea Charles out of Southampton's matchday squad for their 1-1 draw to Middlesbrough.

The 20 year old was omitted from an attacking bench, with Jan Bednarek and Ryan Manning favoured as defensive cover.

Martin's decision came immediately after an international break in which Charles shined for Northern Ireland on two occasions.

This was the first time that Martin has been forced into a tough decision about who to drop from the bench.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Martin explained:  “This is the first time (I’ve had to leave someone out). I felt sick about it. 

“I pulled him aside on Thursday and told him ‘I feel sick about this, I’m not going to lie to you, we have a lot of good players and you are one of them.’

“We were playing at home. Ryan Manning had to be on the bench to cover Breezy who hasn’t played for a while. Janny B was there for depth defensively.

“Everyone else was attacking players. We chose to go that way because we were playing at home and we need to win games

“I don’t think that the draw has changed anything. The amount of games we need to win stays the same - we just have one game less to do it in.

“Shea took things brilliantly because he is a fantastic young man and a really good pro. Unfortunately, a part of my job is making those decisions.

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“It’s not easy when you really like the person sitting in front of you. I mentioned it in the team meeting.

“I had to leave out a guy who has been away and played two really good games for his country. Shea won’t like it but hopefully, he respects it. Monday is a different game."

Captain Jack Stephens was favoured over Bednarek, who has returned to Saints after helping Poland qualify for this summer's European Championship. 

The defender was not passed fit to start Friday's game after receiving a kick on international duty and suffering from a bout of illness.

"Janny B wasn't ready to play, unfortunately. It's been a big week for him with qualifying, travelling and all that stuff so we had a chat," Martin added. 

"We agreed it would be best for him not to play this one. He will be ready for Monday which is good."