MANAGER Russell Martin said Saints were the "best team" in his side's late 3-2 defeat at promotion rivals Ipswich Town. 

Super-sub Jeremy Sarmiento secured Championship comeback kings Ipswich a stoppage-time win against profligate Southampton. 

Che Adams and Adam Armstrong put Saints on course for a much-needed win after Leif Davis’ stunning opener, but wastefulness cost Martin’s men dearly.

Substitute Nathan Broadhead levelled and James Bree’s 85th-minute sending-off for dragging back Davis made for a nervy final conclusion.

Speaking after the match, Martin said: "We were the best team. We didn't deserve to lose.

Daily Echo: Russell Martin ahead of the match at Portman RoadRussell Martin ahead of the match at Portman Road (Image: PA)

"We had 17 shots, five huge chances but missed three. They had relatively little until late on.

"We responded well until we conceded a poor goal, if you were watching the game you would know we were the dominant team and should win the game with two massive chances.

"Then we go down to 10 men and we responded well even at 2-2. Brooksy goes through in the box and nearly squares it for 3-2.

"It was a brilliant performance and if we play like that between now and the end of the season we will be fine," he continued. 

"It gives me huge amounts of confidence and encouragement about what is to come. We played brilliantly tonight, nobody can say anything else.

"I am not saying it’s not a blow, it hurts a lot, but we will only know how much of a blow it was in four weeks.

Daily Echo: Saints captain Jack Stephens in actionSaints captain Jack Stephens in action (Image: PA)

"It hurts but I don’t know if it’s gone, we have eight games and if we play like that I really think we can win all eight.

"That would put us on 98 points and I don’t think anyone has not got promoted on that, so we will aim for that while it’s still there."

Saints missed chances to go 3-1 ahead in the second half through A Armstrong and Ryan Fraser, following glaring misses by Che Adams on Friday.

"It’s not a technical thing, they can all score. Sometimes it was great defending or goalkeeping, maybe it’s just a lack of composure in certain times," Martin explained. 

"We have also conceded goals we shouldn’t have conceded so I am not going to blame anyone. We have scored a lot of goals this season so I don’t think it’s been a problem until now."

On the sending off of Bree, Martin added: "I think Taylor Harwood-Bellis is getting there but I have only seen it once so I don’t know."