GOALS from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes proved pivotal as patched up Saints succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Leicester.

Creative midfielder Maddison rifled in from an acute angle after 37 minutes to put the hosts in the box seat at King Power Stadium.

And Barnes ensured victory for the Foxes by coolly slotting in on the counter late on to end the St Mary’s side’s three-game unbeaten run.

The defeat left Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side eighth in the Premier League table. Saints went into the contest having made three changes from the side who overcame Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary’s 12 days previously.

Alex McCarthy returned in goal following his isolation period after testing positive for COVID-19, while Che Adams recovered from concussion to start up front.

There was also a recall for youngster Will Smallbone – the Republic of Ireland under-21 international making his first league start since the opening day of the season.

Danny Ings was not ready to feature having spent time isolating after a positive test for coronavirus, Moussa Djenepo was out of the squad through injury.

Fraser Forster dropped to the bench – which featured a vast number of Saints’ youngsters due to the club’s current injury issues.

Leicester, who sat fourth ahead of kick-off, recalled key attacking duo Maddison and Jamie Vardy to their starting XI. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made his 400th appearance for the Foxes.

Saints saw the majority of possession in the opening 10 minutes but it was McCarthy who was the first of the two goalkeepers to be involved.

After Ibrahima Diallo fouled Leicester’s Wesley Fofana 25-yards out, the Saints stopper rushed off his line to punch clear a dangerous free-kick from set-piece specialist Maddison.

The contest’s first yellow card then came on 15 minutes. Theo Walcott, back up front alongside Adams, looked to spark a Saints counter before being wiped out by Fofana – who was cautioned.

Chances then fell to either side just before the 20-minute mark.

After Adams had raced forward for Saints and saw his cutback blocked – the first shot on goal came at the other end.

Good work from winger Marc Albrighton down the right allowed him to square across goal. Vardy dummied into the path of Barnes, who stung the palms of visiting stopper McCarthy with a fierce effort from inside the box.

Adams continued to threaten for Saints. After latching on to Walcott’s flick, the frontman shifted the ball to his right foot and forced a save at the near post.

But the breakthrough then came for the hosts 37 minutes. After Diallo tussled with Wilfried Ndidi with no foul given in favour of Saints, Maddison managed to spin away from Stephens and burst into the box after a through ball from Tielemans.

The England international sent a rocket of a strike past McCarthy from an acute angle, the effort soaring into the top of the net.

Saints then looked to respond almost instantly. Skipper James Ward-Prowse picked out the overlapping run of Ryan Bertrand – whose powerful effort was parried to safety by Schmeichel.

And it was the Danish keeper who came to Leicester’s rescue early on in the second half.

After a driving run from Stuart Armstrong, his well-placed pass found youngster Smallbone, who was denied by a diving stop by Schmeichel.

Saints midfielder Diallo, who had already been cautioned for a foul in the opening period, then escaped a second booking after pulling back Maddison.

Another caution did come Saints way however when Bertrand shoved over Albrighton – meaning he will miss the upcoming league clash with Arsenal.

Smallbone had found himself in the thick of it. After colliding with Timothy Castagne, he was eventually forced off with what looked like a knee problem and replaced by Dan N’Lundulu.

Hasenhuttl then opted to bring on Shane Long in place of Adams just before Saints came within inches of a leveller.

Armstrong picked up the ball after N’Lunudulu’s strong run – the Scotland star rattling the crossbar before Long was flagged offside on the follow-up.

Some heroics at the other end from Jan Bednarek kept Saints in it. He headed Barnes’s scuffed effort off the line after Albrighton’s cross.

Vardy then failed to kill off he contest with five minutes left. He was denied by a sublime save by McCarthy after the Foxes looked to counter.

But it was not to matter however, as Barnes wrapped up the game by slotting past McCarthy to cap off a late Leicester counter-attack.

Saints: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Diallo (Valery, 87), Armstrong, Smallbone (N’Lundulu, 61), Walcott, Adams (Long, 72).

Unused subs: Vokins, N’Lundulu, Ferry, Tchaptchet, Watts, Chauke, Forster (g/k).

Booked: Diallo, Bertrand.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Fofana (Soyuncu, 53), Evans, Castagne, Tielemans, Ndidi, Albrighton, Barnes, Maddison (Perez, 76), Vardy (Iheanacho, 90+1).

Unused subs: Amartey, Under, Pereira, Mendy, Thomas, Ward (g/k).

Booked: Fofana, Albrighton.

Referee: Stuart Attwell.

VAR: Jonathan Moss.