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SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Having clambered out of the Premier League relegation zone carrying all three points from Saturday's bottom-of-the-table scrap with Reading, Southampton now have Chelsea to thank for what could be a crucial rest period.
The Saints will enjoy a two-week break between fixtures as next weekend's trip to Chelsea was postponed because of the Blues' Club World Cup commitments.
That enforced break could hardly have been better timed for Southampton, goalscorer Jason Puncheon told reporters, after skipper Adam Lallana hobbled from the St Mary's pitch with a knee injury in the first half of the 1-0 win over Reading.
"It's always good to have a break when you're in the Premier League because it's the most exhausting league, both mentally and physically," said the 26-year-old. "That break will do us well going into the Sunderland game at home.
"We've got a good squad of players, and that's going to be needed over the Christmas period."
The rest will give manager Nigel Adkins' players more time to work in training - the proving ground for a number of slick moves used to slice apart Reading's defence on Saturday.
While Southampton dominated huge chunks of the fixture, they were fortunate not to let Reading snatch a goal and should have converted their dominance into more goal themselves.
"I think we ... were worthy winners with the amount of chances we created and we could have probably put a few more in the back of the net," he told Southampton's TV channel Saints Player.
"We talk all the time about the importance of winning your home games and it's important to win the games against the teams who are in and around you in the league."
Southampton now sit 15th in the 20-team league, with 15 points from 16 matches. Harry Redknapp's Queen's Park Rangers are rooted to the bottom with seven points from their 16, two fewer than Reading with nine from 15 matches.
"We have got our Christmas party with all the members of staff here at the club (on Sunday night) and it will be a little bit better for having won here," Adkins smiled.
"We will work hard through the extended period preparing for the Sunderland game."
Editing by Peter Rutherford