FLYNN Downes sensationally bundled in a stoppage-time winner to keep Southampton in the Championship automatic promotion race with a 3-2 victory over Watford.

Will Smallbone and Che Adams had put Saints on course to capitalise on Leeds and Leicester’s earlier defeats before Ryan Porteous and Ismaël Koné levelled things up.

But Downes crashed home at the back post deep into stoppage time to send St Mary’s and manager Russell Martin into raptures – with a play-off place confirmed at the very least.

Here is how we rated every Southampton player's performance on Saturday...

Daily Echo: Saints celebrate the opening goal, scored by Will SmallboneSaints celebrate the opening goal, scored by Will Smallbone (Image: Stuart Martin)

Gavin Bazunu - 6.

Was beaten by a wicked deflection for Watford's first goal. Should have done better for their second, scored by Koné, who beat him easily with a low shot. Looked rather comfortable with the ball.

Kyle Walker-Peters - 7. 

Played on both the left and the right. His ball across the goal caused carnage which led to Che Adams’ goal. Eased past the opposition defenders time after time. Played a great ball to Stuart Armstrong but the Scot's touch let him down.

Jack Stephens - 7.

Produced a great tackle on Yaser Asprilla to stop him from shooting from close range at 2-0. Was unlucky that Watford’s first goal deflected off his head. Recovered the ball seven times. Moved into midfield after Jan Bednarek's introduction.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis - 7.

Cleared off the line to keep Saints ahead at 2-1. Didn't get out to Kone quick enough to prevent his goal-bound shot. Urged Southampton to play quicker when searching for the winner. Headed down for Flynn Downes late winner.

James Bree - 7.

Kept his place in the starting lineup with Ryan Manning returning to the bench. Delivered a dangerous corner in the first half which nobody attacked. Applauded by the home fans when withdrawn on 70 minutes.

Flynn Downes - 8.

Everywhere he needed to be from start to finish - especially in the 99th minute when he popped up for the winner. Won most of his duels and recovered the ball more than anyone. Becoming an increasingly more important cog in Martin's system.

Joe Aribo - 6.

Didn't match his performance levels against Coventry City on Tuesday evening. Miscued a few passes in the first 20 minutes. Grew into the game as it progressed before being replaced on 54 minutes.

Will Smallbone - 7. 

Climbed highest to nod in a good header for the opener inside 60 seconds. Could have had a second when he won the ball high but fired over from an angle. Made some good runs but wasn't found.

David Brooks - 6.

Linked up with Smallbone for the chance mentioned above. Reacted quickly to cut back for Adams’ close-range finish. Couldn’t keep an edge-of-the-box effort under the crossbar. Replaced by Ryan Fraser when Saints needed energy in the attack.

Adam Armstrong - 7.

His cross found Smallbone’s head for the opening goal. Looked dangerous in and around the box. Played a good ball across to Adams which the Scot missed. Will have been frustrated not to score. Now on 32 goal contributions in the Championship this season.

Che Adams - 8.

Good. Pounced on a cutback for his goal. Held the ball up really well to bring his teammates into the game. Kicked the air from Armstrong's good ball across and could have added another goal here. Won his physical battle against Watford's back two. 


Daily Echo: Russell Martin used all five of his substitutions during the matchRussell Martin used all five of his substitutions during the match (Image: Stuart Martin)

Ryan Fraser - 6.

Had the ball in the net but the flag had already been raised for tight offside. Looked lively on the right and injected the energy Martin wanted. Continues to be a great impact sub.

Stuart Armstrong - 6.

Came on in a double change alongside Fraser. Should have been through on goal after Walker-Peters' inch-perfect through ball but couldn't get his first touch right.

Ryan Manning - 6.

Lost the ball trying to play forward but followed it up with a great tackle to play a teammate through on the right. His corner delivery led to Southampton's last-minute winner. 

Sekou Mara - N/A.

Came on for Adams but failed to provide much of an impact. Headed one of Manning's corner off-target. Could have been punished for an off-the-ball incident with Ryan Porteous. 

Jan Bednarek - 6.

Introduced in place of midfielder Smallbone which saw Stephens pushed forward. Had a lot of the ball as Saints tried to play through Watford's late low block.