Sharp hands warning to Saints

Saints striker determined to stay top of the league

Billy Sharp: Expecting a tough Championship run-in

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Billy Sharp has challenged his Southampton team-mates to win their final five games as they aim to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League.

The striker bagged a brace against bitter rivals Portsmouth in the South Coast derby on Saturday, but it was not enough to secure all three points as the Saints were pegged back twice for a 2-2 draw at St Mary's.

Manager Nigel Adkins believes his side are still in pole position to win the Championship this season and secure a purported £50million Premier League promotion pay-day.

And the former Doncaster Rovers player has backed his boss, although he is aware that every match will be just as tough as against Pompey.

Southampton head to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace on Monday before a mouthwatering showdown against second-placed Reading on Friday night and Sharp told the Daily Star: "That is what it is going to be like for the rest of the season.

"Credit to Reading, they won their game against Leeds on Friday and put pressure on us - but we responded to that pressure by going back top of the league.

"We have to make sure we win the next game against Crystal Palace on Monday so we are still top of the league when we face Reading.

"It (the Portsmouth game) is part and parcel of a 46-game season," he added. "It is a down but the up of it is we are still top of the league."