THE problems that are caused by not winning your home games were displayed in glorious technicolour for any doubters at Crystal Palace last night.

There is no great shame in losing at Selhurst Park – a lot of teams will this season.

Palace are looking increasingly well drilled, organised and dogged and on their own patch will be a force to be reckoned with for the second half of the campaign.

But the problem is when you are relying on going to these places, facing these teams away from home and picking up points you are asking for trouble.

Despite Saints’ good away form there are only so many times you are going to go to Reading or Crystal Palace and win.

That’s just the reality of football and for all but the very best teams in each division it will be exactly the same.

Saints have done well away from home but the points they have picked up on the road have had to prop up their league position because things have gone so badly at home.

It is unrealistic to expect good away form to last a whole season, and certainly to keep a team in a division.

The point is that Saints are not near the bottom three because they lose games like the one against Palace last night, but because they have won just once at St Mary’s all season.

It is that problem, which goes hand in hand with their lack of a natural goalscorer, that poses the greatest threat to their Championship survival.

You feel almost like a broken record for saying it time and again but it is the truth.

Against Palace, Saints started brightly once more but couldn’t capitalise on it and saw their hosts sail into a commanding position and then shut the game down.

Saints put together a terrific piece of football after just six minutes which culminated in a Bradley Wright-Phillips backheel allowing Adam Lallana to drill low at goal from 12 yards out but his shot was saved by Julian Speroni.

You always feel Saints need to get the early goal their sprightly starts deserve, but if a team closes that period out and takes the lead it always seems such a struggle.

That duly happened on nine minutes when Palace bagged the opener.

There was an element of controversy about it as Saints claimed Alex Pearce had been fouled by Shefki Kuqi as a high ball from deep seemed to sail over the centre half and was controlled on the Palace striker’s shoulder before he lobbed Kelvin Davis on the half volley.

It did appear Kuqi gave Pearce a small and subtle nudge in the lower back, but they are the kind of decisions you sometimes get and sometimes don’t.

Saints were faced with a mountain to climb when on 15 minutes Palace doubled their lead.

John Oster’s right wing corner came out from a bundle of players to Craig Beattie, who lashed a fantastically struck volley from just outside the right corner of the six yard box back and into the opposite top corner.

It was simply unstoppable.

Saints threatened a couple more times in the first half with Andrew Surman curling just wide and Jordan Robertson forcing Speroni into a near post save.

But that was about it while Kuqi failed to work Davis from a decent position.

In the second half Saints started reasonably on the ball if not quite at their sharpest. But Palace were showing all their experience – they knew they had done the hard work in the first half and just needed to see the game out.

Saints had a couple of half openings early on but couldn’t get a meaningful effort on target while Kuqi blew another opportunity to seal the three points when he thrashed a volley high, wide and handsome.

Paul Ifil wasn’t in such generous mood, though, and made it 3-0 on 75 minutes.

Speroni pumped a long kick up field which Lloyd James tried to bring under control rather than just heading it clear.

He produced a heavy touch and Ifil was lurking to run across him, steal the ball and, through on goal, lift it over Davis.

Saints spent the remainder of the game looking a spent force and, but for another wayward finish from Kuqi and a good save from Davis, it could have been worse.

There is a very good reason teams fighting at the bottom of the table can’t rely on away results to stay up and this proved exactly why.