Jay Rodriguez appears for Southampton's under-21s

The forward stepped up his injury return this afternoon.

Jay Rodriguez appears for Southampton's under-21s
Jay Rodriguez is nearing a return after playing for the under-21s. | Photo: Southampton FC

Jay Rodriguez this afternoon turned out for Southampton's under 21 side as they took on Middlesbrough at Hartlepool United's Victoria Park.

It was the first competitive match that Rodriguez has played since the 2-2 draw against Leicester City at St Mary's all the way back in October; a game which saw him pick up the knee injury that has kept him out of action for five months.

Strong hour for the striker

The England man put in a fine performance and caused real havoc to the Boro backline, linking up well with Sam Gallagher, Jake Hesketh and Josh Sims as the Saints eased to a 3-1 win away from home.

Rodriguez was withdrawn after an hour in place of Olufela Olomola, who himself was part of the first team squad last weekend as he made the bench in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland.

These were very useful minutes for the 26-year-old as he looks to put injuries behind him and focus on getting back to fitness to help his side have a strong end to the season. More than an hour was always going to be unlikely for Rodriguez as it was his first proper match back and now he can continue to build the minutes up the closer he gets to a first team return.

Rodriguez played for an hour against Middlesbrough. | Photo: Southampton Fc
Rodriguez played for an hour against Middlesbrough. | Photo: Southampton FC

Next step

After coming through this match unscathed, the feeling around the club is that Rodriguez will be part of the squad for the visit of Liverpool on Sunday. H  is expected to be among the substitutes, so long as he has a full week of training under his belt.

Failing that, he will have even longer to gain his fitness as following the Liverpool match is a two week international break. The Saints return from that interval by travelling to league leaders Leicester on April 3.

Rodriguez will now just be looking to play as much of a role as he can in what remains this season, before then getting a strong pre-season in ahead of pressing his claim for a regular place in Ronald Koeman's side next term.