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Ralph Hasenhuttl toasts vintage year for Saints but seeks ‘final punch’ up front

The boss hailed a ‘very, very good year’ for Southampton, although goals have dried up in recent games.

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was pleased with his side’s long-term efforts, but acknowledged short-term goalscoring issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was pleased with his side’s long-term efforts, but acknowledged short-term goalscoring issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was pleased with his side’s long-term efforts, but acknowledged short-term goalscoring issues (Adam Davy/PA)

Ralph Hasenhuttl is “proud” of Southampton’s efforts in 2020 but acknowledged recent problems in attack following their goalless draw with West Ham.

Saints shared a hard-fought 0-0 stalemate with Fulham on Boxing Day and were unable to break through against West Ham on Tuesday in the absence of their manager, who is self-isolating after a member of his household tested positive for Covid-19.

“I must say that it was the end of a very, very good year for us,” Hasenhuttl said. “I think we took 56 points, and the final (point) against a team we have never picked up a point against so far (during Hasenhuttl’s tenure).

“I must say especially in the defence, the last round is perfect, we have two clean sheets in a row, we are much more stabilised now, although we play much more football now.

“The link that is missing at the moment is the final punch in the final third. I think in the last games we always score but it is offside.

“It’s not so easy for us to score at the moment but the most important thing is that we are still compact and we still are much more stable against the ball.

“In the year before I think that this was the basis of getting 56 points in 2020. I think for us as a club this is an amazing number, I think after Liverpool and Tottenham we have the most wins in this year so to be honest it’s much more than we expected to have.

“(I’m) happy and proud for the work that the guys did this year.”

Meanwhile, David Moyes believes the return of Michail Antonio is a “big boost” for West Ham as he made his first appearance for more than a month at Southampton.

The forward had previously not featured since November due to a hamstring injury, but he was brought on in the 77th minute.

The manager issued a note of caution over his return.

“Yes he has (come through unscathed) and that’s a big boost,” Moyes said. “We have missed him, we have been muddling through a little bit without him, trying to find ways of getting goals from other sources if we can.

“The players have done a good job but obviously getting him back playing, we have to tread carefully with him, be patient with him.”

Craig Dawson also made his debut for West Ham at St Mary’s and earned the manager’s praise for his performance.

“(He was) very good but I don’t think anyone should be surprised with that, he is a very good central defender and has been good wherever he has been,” said Moyes.

“I have to say he did great for us, he helped us keep a clean sheet and it is good for him.”

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