Mauricio Pellegrino believes Saints are continuing to improve at a crucial time as they eased into the FA Cup fourth round with a win over Watford.

Victory over the Hornets was a first for Saints at St Mary’s since November, and gave the team an important confidence boost ahead of a crucial Premier League double header against Brighton and West Brom.

Pellegrino said: “I think the two more important reasons for this victory is to move in this 90 minutes to the next round. We want to progress in this competition.

“On the other hand I think in the dressing room our feeling is we are growing as a team, little by little.

“We are playing much better with the ball and without the ball.

“When you have to suffer we compete well.

“In comparison with the game against Watford home or away it was the best first 60 minutes.

“We couldn’t kill the game earlier but I think we deserve to win.

“We suffer at the end and dangerous with direct crosses and we change with Maya to try and be strong in this moment.”

Saints were the better side against an injury hit Watford, who were poor in their first game under new manager Javi Gracia.

Saints’ victory didn’t stop Pellegrino getting criticised by some fans after he brought off Sofiane Boufal and introduced Maya Yoshida as part of a back five in the second period.

Pellegrino, whose Saints side surrendered a two goal advantage against the same opponents at Vicarage Road just a fortnight earlier, explained his decision.

“We have in our mind the last game 15 days ago and we were winning 2-0 and Watford with direct play caused a lot of problems,” he said.

“When you move one players to the back three you will lose the ball if you don’t manage the ball properly.

“With Jeremy Pied and Cedric they were playing in this way with a lot of direct play.

“I think we did more or less ok and it’s a risk but in this moment you have to solve the most important thing to be stronger.

“We concede a lot of situations in a recent game against them and little by little we have to manage much better this situation.

“We didn’t play too many games in this way but we have to adapt.”

He added: “I think we did more or less ok to try to win the game.

“The efficiency is something we have to improve but we play against a good side with good capacity and we control most of the time well.

“It is difficult at the end to stop the long ball and long throw from the goalkeeper and physically they have maybe got some players stronger than our players.

“With the ball on the ground we create trouble in wide areas and couldn’t score the second goal to win more.”