Hughes hopes McCarthy can maintain his momentum

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Southampton manager Mark Hughes has challenged Alex McCarthy to continue the fine form which brought him England recognition.

Saints goalkeeper McCarthy was involved with Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad for the first time during the international break.

The uncapped 28-year-old was an unused substitute for the games against Spain and Switzerland as he attempts to challenge Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland for a starting place.

McCarthy has been ever-present in the Premier League for Southampton since ousting out-of-favour Fraser Forster after the Boxing Day defeat at Tottenham.

“We’re all pleased for Alex. I think it’s recognition – not just (for) his form at the beginning of the season but (for) his impact when he came into the team last year,” said Hughes at his press conference ahead of Monday’s clash with Brighton.

“He’ll understand he needs to continue in the form that he’s showing at the moment and any recognition of his play at international level will follow on from that.

“He’ll be in a good place, undoubtedly. He’s had a good experience, albeit I’m sure he would have preferred to have got some game time.

“I’m sure he’s enthused and looking forward to playing again.”

After taking just one point from their opening three games, Saints put together successive wins before the internationals.

Welshman Hughes, whose team beat Brighton in the Carabao Cup and then won at Crystal Palace in the league, felt the break was disruptive.

“We just started to get into a bit of form, in my view, and it’s always a little bit frustrating that as the season starts to get going there’s a break and 10 days where you haven’t got your full squad together – and that can frustrate you,” he said.

“But it would have been more frustrating if we’d gone into the break on the back of a poor result.

“I think the last couple of games we’ve seen the group come together and get their levels where they need to be and as a consequence our performances have improved.”

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