Tim Sherwood credited his players for showing the character and desire he has been demanding in recent weeks to overturn a two goal deficit and beat Southampton 3-2 at White Hart Lane.

Spurs went 2-0 down inside 30 minutes when Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana took advantage of two defensive mistakes from Kyle Naughton, before Christian Eriksen grabbed one back before half time to set up the comeback.

Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced a tired looking Mousa Dembele at half-time, during which Sherwood admitted to having some stern words with his players.

Asked what his half time message was to the players, Sherwood said: “I can’t tell you everything but it wasn’t pretty. I wanted to play a high tempo game and press them high up the field but we didn’t have the energy.

“I have to make the excuse for them – those European games take their toll. We always seem to finish well after European games but we never start well, and against a good side like Southampton you’re going to get punished.

“We’ve taken a couple of knocks in the privates (with three defeats in a row to Chelsea, Benfica and Arsenal) but we’ve come back. After 28 minutes, I didn’t doubt them, I just thought we needed to tweak it and we needed some energy in the middle.

“Gylfi gave us a lift and some more energy in there. The goal after half time helped us and a bit of quality at the death there.

“It wasn’t ranting and raving – it was measured what I said to them.”

The half-time team talk evidently had the right effect, as Spurs levelled through Eriksen just 45 seconds after the re-start, before Sigurdsson produced a 20-yard pile driver in stoppage time to give his side all three points.

Sherwood singled out young defender Kyle Naughton for his second half performance after two defensive howlers in the first half that put Tottenham behind.

He said: “I want to give a lot of credit to Kyle Naughton today. Anyone can make mistakes but what everyone can’t do is stand tall and put themselves on offer in the second half. Too often I see players all over the country go hiding and want to come off but he didn’t want to do that.

“I give him massive credit for that and he’ll only grown and learn from it. That’s the character I’m looking for. I want people who will roll their sleeves up and get on with it.

“The lads were fantastic. You have to find a way to win. It wasn’t free flowing, fantastic football but we found a way to win. It was about guts and character and they showed that today.”

The result lifted Spurs to fifth place, six points behind Arsenal, and Sherwood admitted it would remain a big test to clinch that elusive Champions League spot.

He said: “We’re going in the right direction. We’ve had a hiccup but we came back. It was massive, a massive win for us today but we know there’s a tough period ahead.

“We’ll try and do as best as we can. We know it’s going to be really difficult. We’re going to try and accumulate as many points as we can.

“I think we’re a point behind what we were last year and we pushed Arsenal really close so who knows what can happen – it is squeaky bum time and it is a time for the men to stand up and get as many as we can.”