MANAGER Rus­sell Mar­tin believes it is a pos­i­tive that Saints have been “writ­ten off” by every­one ahead of the Cham­pi­onship run-in. 

The St Mary’s side are nine points behind league lead­ers Leeds Unit­ed but have two games in hand after post­pone­ments. 

Book­ies have Saints out at 13/2 for auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion, with Leeds and Leices­ter City ranked as the two favourites. 

Saints have 10 match­es left to end the sea­son with the prospect of play­offs if they can­not over­turn the points deficit.

Speak­ing ahead of the finale, Mar­tin said: “You are get­ting so close to the end goal and every­thing you want to achieve.

Daily Echo: Saints boss Russell Martin still believes his side can finish in the top twoSaints boss Rus­sell Mar­tin still believes his side can fin­ish in the top two

“Every game you tick off now, you get clos­er and clos­er. Crazy things will hap­pen in the league between now and the end of the sea­son.

“There will be some strange games and strange results. We have to take care of our­selves,” he con­tin­ued.

“The beau­ti­ful thing for us is that we have been writ­ten off by every­one. 

“We have aver­aged two points a game and have been com­plete­ly writ­ten off which is real­ly inter­est­ing and shows the qual­i­ty of the league. 

“We will take each day as it comes and we have a tough one against Mid­dles­brough, who are in good form — espe­cial­ly away from home.”

Saints wel­come Mid­dles­brough to St Mary’s on Good Fri­day before the vis­it to pro­mo­tion rivals Ipswich Town on Mon­day. 

Boro, man­aged by Man­ches­ter Unit­ed leg­end Michael Car­rick, are unbeat­en in their last four, keep­ing three clean sheets.

Daily Echo: Michael Carrick's Middlesbrough reached the playoff semi-final last seasonMichael Car­rick­’s Mid­dles­brough reached the play­off semi-final last sea­son (Image: PA)

The River­side out­fit, who came from behind to beat Saints 2–1 in the reverse fix­ture, are look­ing to stage a late play­off push of their own.

Mar­tin admit­ted: “They have a good man­ag­er who I respect a lot and I think they have been unlucky if you look at the data.

“They prob­a­bly should be a bit high­er up than they are. It’s a tough game but they all are in this league.

“I am real­ly excit­ed for this chal­lenge. After a bit of an extend­ed break, we need a result and it’s a big week­end for us.

“They have changed shape recent­ly and it’s worked quite well but they are flex­i­ble.

“I don’t know why their away record is bet­ter than at home but when you watch the games they are quite con­sis­tent.

“There’s no dif­fer­ence in set­up or per­for­mance and they have been good.” 

The match is Southamp­ton’s first fix­ture on Good Fri­day since April 2009, when they were beat­en 3–0 by Wolves at the Molineux. 

All four of the pro­mo­tion-chas­ing sides play at dif­fer­ent times on Fri­day, with Leices­ter vis­it­ing Bris­tol City in the lunchtime kick-off. 

Saints play at 3pm before Black­burn Rovers ver­sus Ipswich kicks off at 5:30pm and Leeds vis­it Wat­ford at 8pm.