SAINTS boss Russell Martin explained that "no player is guaranteed to start" after dropping Kyle Walker-Peters in their 3-2 defeat at Ipswich.

The 26 year old was dropped to the bench on Monday evening for the first time in the league this season.

James Bree was favoured at right back with club captain Jack Stephens used on the left of a back four.

Bree was given his marching orders for a foul on Leif Davis with five minutes of regular time remaining while the score was locked at 2-2.

Martin was unable to introduce Walker-Peters to add defensive cover having already used all three substitution windows earlier in the game.

The hosts made the most of their man advantage when substitute Jeremy Sarmiento recovered from a slip to poke home in the final moments at Portman road.

READ MORE: Martin: 'We were the best team. We didn't deserve to lose'

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Martin explained that Bree was given the nod over Walker-Peters due to the former's lack of recent football.

He said: "James Bree deserved to play. Kyle hasn't played for a while and played on Friday. No player is guaranteed to start in the team.

"Kyle didn't have his best game for us (against Middlesbrough) and Bree was excellent. I don't think there was a problem with his performance.

"The way the team played was fantastic. We don't lose because of a problem with the selection or the guys on the pitch."

Walker-Peters lost Emmanuel Latte Lath at the back post on Friday, leading to the Ivorian snatching a last-gasp equaliser for Boro at St Mary's.

Bree was making only his third start of 2024 having fully recovered from the injury he suffered at QPR just before Christmas.

Martin was non-committal when asked if Southampton are going to appeal Bree's red card.