SOUTHAMPTON boss Russell Martin believes Middlesbrough have been "unlucky" this season and deserve to be higher in the Championship table - though he admits he's slightly confused by Boro's struggle at home and success on the road.

Michael Carrick's side have picked up more points on their travels than they have at the Riverside this season, though they did beat Southampton when the sides met on Teesside back in September.

Boro head for St Mary's clinging to their slim hopes of making the play-offs, with the gap to the top six currently at seven points with eight games to play.

Carrick's side looked to be out of the race for the top six but they picked up 10 points from a possible 12 before the international break to stay just within touching distance of the play-off places.

And Martin thinks Boro's displays this season have merited more.

"They have a good manager who I respect a lot and I think they have been unlucky if you look at the data," he said ahead of the Good Friday clash.

"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 (Boro) 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."


Southampton are nine points adrift of the automatic promotion places and although they have games in hand, they're now undoubtedly the outsiders in the four-way battle for a top two finish - but that suits Martin down to the ground.

He said: "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.

"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."