Nigel Adkins is upbeat as his side prepares for the two make-or-break fixtures that could determine the rest of the season.

Defeat at Liverpool brought Saints' four game unbeaten streak to an end, but the manager says he has taken positives from the performance.

Saints now host relegation rivals Reading and Sunderland at St Mary’s before Christmas.

Adkins’ men have a second half of the season schedule that sees them having to play away to all bar one of the teams that surround them in the bottom eight.

They will be at home to teams currently in the top half of the table with the exception of QPR and Liverpool.

That means the importance of the next two games cannot be underestimated.

Reading have only won once in 14 Premier League games this season – at home to Everton last month – while Sunderland only boast two wins from the same amount of games.

“We’re back at St Mary’s and home games are always important and will always be highlighted,”said Adkins ahead of Reading’s visit this Saturday.

“We’ve been outstanding at St Mary’s and played some really good football, dominating games.

“That’s where we’ve got to make sure we strive to pick up the three points in every game.

“The next game is a derby game against Reading. It will be a full house, a great atmosphere and a game that the players will be looking forward to.”

Adkins is pleased that his side are now in with a shout in games, with the early season struggles seeming to be behind them.

Wins against QPR and Newcastle have done much to help that feeling of upward momentum and, despite a defeat at Anfield, it hasn’t been burst.

Saints have certainly tightened up at the back.

Having shipped an alarming 28 goals in their first 10 games back in the top flight, Saints have only conceded four goals in their last five games.

And three of those were mistakes from young Paulo Gazzaniga.

Adkins is just hoping his side will get back to winning ways for Saturday’s visit of the Royals.

“We are in the mix, we are competitive now and that’s the important thing,” he reflected.

“We’ve got goals in the team, we pass the ball, we’re very creative, we have goals all over the team.

“Against Liverpool we showed another resolve where you’ve got to stick in the game to maybe get something from it.

“Maybe at the start of the camping that wasn’t the case.

“I’ve got to look to keep taking positives out of it for the team and keep moving forward.”

He added: “If we had got something (at Anfield) we would have gone a point behind Liverpool.

“We dominated against Norwich but unfortunately we didn’t get the three points.”