THERE are several key ingredients for any successful football team.
Of course you need good players, team spirit, a bit of luck even.
But probably the most vital thing is the instinct to win.
That is something which you can only learn from playing games.
It can’t be taught, no matter how good your manager or head coach is.
It is not only a desire to win, because you rather hope that anybody who goes out and plays football would have that, but an ability to take victories from all sorts of different games.
That is what Saints had been missing up until the last few days.
When you are a footballing side as Saints undoubtedly are, you will achieve wins by getting the ball down and out-passing your opponents.
Those victories will be the most satisfying and the best spectacles.
Saints had exactly that experience at Derby.
But not every game will go like that, not every team will let you play, particularly in the Championship.
It is then that you need to have something extra.
You need a ‘plan b’, but often the players need to adapt themselves as they go along.
It is then that the instinct to win really kicks in.
Generally you find it in experienced players. Saints have largely had to try and instill it in their youngsters.
Finally, though, it appears to be there.
Both against Doncaster and Norwich it was in evidence.
In both of those games Saints were allowed a certain amount of freedom to move the ball around, but didn’t do it particularly well.
That happens, but then you need to show another side to your game if you are going to take three points and that is exactly what they did.
It was a lively old match against Norwich and one for much of the first half Saints played on the back foot.
After an early chance on 13 minutes when David McGoldrick hit the outside of the post after his low ball across the six yard box had been cleared back to him, it was pretty much one way traffic.
Norwich went man-to-man on Adam Lallana and pushed two quick players out wide to give Lloyd James and Joseph Mills a thorough examination.
Lee Croft did exactly that in getting down the right and crossing for Antoine Sibierski, whose header hit the inside of the post and came back out.
Darel Russell had a chance from close in but his instinctive header was put over.
Over on the left Omar Koroma left James for dead and crossed to Croft who controlled and fired goalwards only to see his shot deflected just wide.
But then, totally against the run of play, Saints scored a goal out of nowhere.
They worked it in fairly routine fashion from Kelvin Davis to Chris Perry to Andrew Surman and then out to Jordan Robertson on the left.
There appeared to be little threat as the debutant cut inside before he unleashed an incredible curling shot from the edge of the area that bent into David Marshall’s top corner, leaving the Norwich keeper with no chance.
Saints almost doubled their lead before the break when sub Bradley Wright-Phillips ran on and smashed a shot that hit the top of the bar.
The second half started in much the same way as the first.
Saints had an early opening as Robertston’s shot from inside the area was deflected wide.
Then Norwich took over.
Koroma had two great chances in the space of a minute and was only denied by some terrific goalkeeping from Davis.
The first effort on 59 minutes came after he skipped past two players to get through one-on-one but Davis turned the ball over the bar.
From the corner, the ball was loose in the box and Koroma half volleyed from close range but somehow Davis turned it over.
But then it was Saints who again caught their opponents with a sucker punch.
As Lallana twisted and turned just inside the box, he was chopped down by ex-Pompey man Dejan Stefanovic who promptly got himself sent off for dissent.
McGoldrick stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot for 2-0.
Marshall made good saves from Lallana and McGoldrick as Saints threatened a third.
But all that mattered was another three points and further proof that Saints have what it takes to win plenty more games yet.