Alan Pardew felt his side had proved a point as they romped to a 5-1 victory over Walsall at the St Mary's Stadium.
The Saints superb charge to the play-off places has stumbled in recent weeks, although they sent a message to their rivals with a resounding win over their fellow promotion hopefuls.
Lee Barnard's brace added to strikes from Jason Puncheon, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana to secure the win, with Pardew hailing his side's display that rebuked recent criticism from the club's boardroom.
He said: "I feel I am having to defend the team which is not what I should be doing. It was an excellent performance and we were outstanding throughout.
"I feel sorry for (Walsall manager) Chris Hutchings because he's a good man and a good manager but he came up against us on a day where we were determined to make a statement.
"The stats don't lie - we have played 23 games with 14 wins, five draws and just three defeats."
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