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Mark Hughes
Mark Hughes

Southampton manager Mark Hughes believes his team have broken out of the "straitjacket" of playing in front of their own fans.

Saints have endured a prolonged period of struggle at St Mary's, winning just four of their last 26 Premier League games, but Sky Bet make them even money favourites to pick up all three points in Monday night's clash with Brighton.

They are yet to record a home victory so far this season but, ahead of the visit of their south-coast neighbours, Hughes believes the anxiety of playing in the stadium has been lifted.

"I think it has been (a mental block) but I sense there is a bit more freedom about our play at home," Hughes said in quotes reported by the Southern Daily Echo.

"There is a good energy in the stadium now in terms of fans seeing a real difference in our play in terms of our attitude to the game and what we're trying to do.

"That filters back to the players and they're encouraged.

"Certainly it seemed when I first came into the building that there was a bit of a straitjacket in terms of apprehension before home games. I think that's gone.

"Performances - not necessarily the results we would have wanted - have been decent when the crowd was actually with us and could see what we were trying to do, when we were trying to be more positive.

"Our home form needs to be addressed and that's what we've been talking about."

Southampton won 2-0 at Crystal Palace before the international break to record their first league victory of the campaign.

The Hampshire club have not won successive Premier League matches since April 2017.

Hughes feels Monday evening's televised game provides an ideal opportunity to rectify that statistic.

"These are the opportunities you have to take," said the Welshman.

"When you have won an away game and have a home fixture which you expect to win, with no disrespect to Brighton who are a good team, you go into with intentions of winning.

"We can't let these opportunities pass us by. It's a good moment for us, we're playing OK."

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