IF YOU want to do anything in football, even just avoid relegation, then your home form is crucial.
Saints will be in very big trouble unless theirs improves markedly – and very soon.
Just one win out of eight Championship games at St Mary’s this season is a sorry tale.
Alright, there have been three draws but that is not enough, especially when you look at the teams Saints have faced at home so far this season.
The likes of Barnsley, Blackpool and Watford are hardly sides that are going to set the world alight.
In those eight games, which have yielded just six points, Saints have only scored six goals ... and therein lies the problem.
At home they do not score enough goals and too often in all matches they seem to only come to life once they fall behind.
Jan Poortvliet is right in assessing that it is a mental problem the players have somewhere along the line, but putting it right won’t be easy.
Whether Saints’ home blues is a result of a young team struggling to handle pressure and expectation is hard to ascertain.
But the freedom with which they play when they are the underdogs away from home or when chasing a game suggests it might be.
Whatever, their home form is a long way from being good enough even just to stay up.
What’s frustrating is that there’s no lack of effort from the Saints team. It would be easy to use that as a reason if it was true, but it’s not.
In nearly every game this season they’ve given everything they’ve got in terms of effort and you cannot fault the players for that.
But it’s in that final third where it all goes wrong.
Saints don’t create so many chances they can afford to miss a hatful before they get one, which probably adds even more pressure.
And in the end that seems to tell with shots off target or comfortable saves for the keeper when they should be goals.
It’s not a good habit to have and it is a problem that cannot go on much longer or Saints will find themselves sucked into a battle for survival that will grip them for the rest of the campaign.
After the previous week’s win over Preston, you hoped that Saints would come out firing on all cylinders against Bristol City having turned a corner in their season.
But instead they were very subdued and incredibly lucky to get to half-time with the score still goalless.
They had Kelvin Davis to thank for that, as ever.
The Saints keeper was again in good form, saving a penalty on 19 minutes.
It was awarded after Alex Pearce was adjudged to have handled in the area when defending a corner and Michael McIndoe stepped up to take it.
He really put his foot through it and kept it low. Although it was fairly central, it was so well struck he would have expected to score – but Davis got down sharply to his left to keep it out.
Davis made a slightly more routine save from Gavin Williams before another terrific stop from McIndoe, this time as the City midfielder drilled a shot across goal.
He was quickly off his line to prevent David Noble getting a clear run at goal but Lee Johnson’s first time attempt to lift the ball into the empty net from 35 yards was a long way off target.
Saints were struggling to produce anything at all in the final third and the nearest they came in the first half was David McGoldrick’s near post header from Jake Thomson’s low cross, but it was a tough chance and was directed off target.
Rather than making the most of their good fortune to still be level after the break, Saints did fall behind on 52 minutes.
Dele Adebola held off Ollie Lancashire and thundered a shot against the post.
When it came out of the area Noble showed great composure to control, drop his shoulder and feed the ball to Johnson who curled a first time effort into the top corner.
Suddenly Saints were spurred into life, boosted by Jason Euell coming off the bench.
Just moments after coming on Euell probably should have scored though, failing to hit the target from eight yards under pressure.
But at least Saints were creating and City were holding on for dear life.
There were a series of half chances but the clear cut one came on 76 minutes when McGoldrick found himself facing goal inside the area.
But from a decent position he finished across the keeper but wide of the far post.
It’s the kind of thing that Saints need to change.