THE raw post-defeat emotion could be heard in Jack Stephens' voice as he explained the "very low" feeling in the Saints dressing room on Monday evening.

Saints had just suffered a last-minute defeat at promotion rivals Ipswich Town courtesy of super sub Jeremy Sarmiento's 97th-minute winner.

The defeat has made Southampton's slim chances of making the automatic promotion spots look less likely as they now sit 12 points off the pace with just eight games remaining.

Stephens felt his side should have taken more from Portman Road after an "amazing first half" and fumed at the goal they conceded at the death.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, the defender said: "The feeling is low. It’s a really tough one to take. We had an amazing first half performance - it was a brilliant reaction to going a goal down.

“We scored two brilliant goals and then dominated from there. We were ok in the second half until their equaliser - which was a really poor goal to concede.

“Again we had chances, there wasn’t much in the game between their second goal and their winner. It was a sucker punch.

Daily Echo: Jack Stephens has played across the back three for Saints this termJack Stephens has played across the back three for Saints this term (Image: Stuart Martin)

“We felt really low at the end but it’s up to us to pick ourselves up and decide what we are going to do for the next eight games."

Southampton have dropped points by leaking late goals in their last two games and Stephens wants them to get better at closing games out.

“We have conceded two shocking goals if we are being honest. The Middlesbrough one was a hopeful cross into the box.

“The one against Ipswich, the boy has fallen over and we have still not reacted. It’s two shockers. That is on us, not anyone else. As a team defensively we need to be better at closing games out.

"We have said that too many times this season. That means we are chasing and hoping that other teams drop points.

"We are going to have to give it our best and see where that takes us. We will be critical of ourselves because ultimately you can play poorly and win or play like that and lose.

Daily Echo: Jack Stephens (left) was named Saints captain in the summerJack Stephens (left) was named Saints captain in the summer (Image: Stuart Martin)

"It's all well and good saying that we can play like that and win most games, which is true, but we can't be in that position and not win the game."

While automatic promotion is still mathematically possible, it looks unlikely that Saints can make up the ground required on the top three.

However, Martin's side have two games in hand and still have to visit Leeds United and Leicester City before the end of the campaign.

“Everyone was saying the automatics were gone before this game anyway, we will let everyone make that decision," Stephens concluded.

"I hope we are going to give everything in the next eight games to give ourselves a chance. There has never been a doubt about this group of lads when it comes to bouncing back.

"We have bounced back all season. I’ve got no doubts in my mind that if and when we do go one goal down we can get back into games. We did that on Monday because nobody panicked."