Southampton boss sends blunt promotion warning amid 'frustration' over Leeds United form

The Championship promotion race is intensifying with a midweek round of fixtures on the way and Leeds United hunting the top two.
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Russell Martin knows there will be no comfortable finish in this season's Championship promotion race, admitting his side are growing frustrated at being unable to pull away despite enjoying a club-record unbeaten run.

Saturday's 5-3 comeback win at home to Huddersfield Town on Saturday was their 25th consecutive game without defeat in all competitions, a run that started with the 3-1 victory over Leeds United in September. More recently, the Saints have won eight of their last nine in the Championship and are enjoying the greatest run in the club's history.

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Despite that, Southampton remain 11 points off league leaders Leicester while Leeds and Ipswich Town remain hot on their heels. All four teams are in the kind of form that would almost guarantee promotion in any other year and Martin has warned his side that there will be no easing up from anyone between now and May.

"Usually, in any Championship season, if we had these points we’d be quite clear in the top two positions, which tells you how strong it's been," Martin said ahead of his side's trip to Bristol City on Tuesday. "The four teams in there fighting and then West Brom and Hull who have been brilliant. 

"I think it's down to the amount of quality coaches in the division with clear ideas and ways of playing. The athleticism and power of players, it's as good a Championship as I've ever known - and I've been involved in a lot. 

"We have to use that frustration of being on such a brilliant run, but we've still got so much work to do, it's not comfortable and it won't be until the end of the season but we have to keep heading into it. We need to hit every challenge head on, keep growing and learning. Hopefully at some point we continue this run and that gap widens."

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Leeds are managing to keep pace with Southampton due to what has been an excellent start to 2024, with Saturday's 3-0 win at home to Rotherham their sixth league victory on the bounce. Ipswich have dropped off after an outstanding start but remain very much in the hunt.

Martin has previously hinted that the season could go to the wire, with Leeds hosting Southampton on the final day of the season in what could be a massive game.