Alan Pardew took heart from the performance of his Southampton side despite seeing them slip to a 4-1 FA Cup defeat at the hands of neighbours Portsmouth.
Avram Grant's side pulled away late on with goals from Aruna Dindane, Nadir Belhadj and Jamie O'Hara after Rickie Lambert had cancelled out Quincy Owusu-Abeyie's opener.
A philosophical Pardew said: "We tried to play a controlled game and not to open it up," he said.
"We did well with that. We were very disappointed not to be leading at half-time, David James was terrific, and it was evenly poised. Psychologically, scoring first would have been tough for Portsmouth.
"I think next time we'll play them we'll be in a stronger position," added the Saints boss.
"We are a lot closer than the team that played because we had players unavailable."