Manager Nigel Adkins was left to lament an “uncharacteristically flat” performance from his Saints team as they fell to a deflating defeat at home to Sunderland.

Steven Fletcher’s strike just before half-time separated the sides at St Mary’s, with the hosts unable to break the Black Cats’ dogged resistance after the interval.

The loss to their fellow strugglers leaves Saints 17th going into Christmas, out of the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.

Adkins admitted the performance was not what he has come to expect from his players.

“It just didn’t happen for us today,” he said. “To me, it just seemed to be uncharacteristically flat, for whatever reason. Obviously, I’ll digest that.

“The goal we’ve conceded just before half-time from our point of view there’s obviously two or three people who could have done better in stopping the goal.

“That’s obviously given Sunderland something to hang onto in the second half and give them credit because they’ve defended well.

“We changed things round to try and give ourselves an opportunity to increase the tempo and find a way forwards to create openings and unfortunately we’ve not gone and scored any goals.”