SAINTS manager Russell Martin admitted “consistency” in team selection helped his side but moved to explain why he cannot start the same XI every match.
The boss pointed to differences in the opposition and energy levels across the week of training as factors in his starting selections.
Martin’s Saints are unbeaten in six in the Championship, climbing to fourth in the league table, following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Birmingham City.
Six players have started each of the last six fixtures while Martin named the same XI on three occasions, with only one change from that team in two more matches.
Only against Preston North End – which finished as a 2-2 draw at Deepdale last week – did he make major changes as injury and suspension played havoc.
He told the Daily Echo: “The best team changes every week, doesn’t it? We have a squad of players, not just 11 players that have to be on the pitch every week.
“My job is to keep them motivated and keep them happy, especially the ones that aren’t playing – 10 or 11 players every week aren’t happy.
“There are players who feel they should be starting every game at this level and could be playing a level above, so it’s an interesting challenge.
“You have to manage injuries. You see their energy every day and we have discussions with the players. The consistency in the team has helped us a lot.
“You can make one or two changes here and there but five is a lot, so I understand that – but three or four were enforced and the players understood why.”
Martin continued: “That was why I was even more pleased with getting a point at Preston and digging in, we just shouldn’t have been in a position where we were behind at any point.
“You want a consistent selection but you want guys pushing those in the team and seizing their opportunity when you get it.
“Some people might have to wait again before they get an opportunity. it’s never simple. I have been in teams where there is a set hierarchy in the group.
“In the short term, it was fine. in the long term, it was a disaster. There was no competition, no edge, people knew they wouldn’t play regardless of what they did.
“In the best teams I played in, you could be starting one week, on the bench, or not in the squad the next – but you got spoken to and understood why. It was really clear.
“We have had a consistent selection here but there is so much more than ‘He’s a good player so we’ll play him’, it’s about feeling and understanding what the game needs.”
Martin also feels the familiarity is allowing his side to come through opposition periods of momentum.
Although Saints dropped points against Rotherham and Preston, the St Mary’s outfit saw off spells of resistance in their wins versus Birmingham, Hull City and Stoke City.
“The more games we have played together, the longer periods of dominance we have had,” Martin said.
“The time when we are not at our best has been less and less really. You never have 100 minutes of complete dominance.
“You have to have moments where it’s tough, and you dig in together. It’s part of any way you play if you want to be successful.
“Recently, they have done it really well. It’s about putting more performances where we deal with that. You don’t want those moments but you need to turn the momentum back.”