IT IS in that final, decisive, third that Saints must improve to turn results in their favour.

They needed to show a reaction after the dreadful weekend defeat to Swansea against Coventry last night to give themselves something to build on.

And to a certain extent they did. There was heart and workrate and passion – but it was all crippled by what is becoming a chronic lack of confidence.

For so long their current Achilles heel, having a cutting edge in the final third, was shining out again. And when that had been put right it was replaced by the nerves of a team that know how important every three points they can gain is.

You could almost sense the players flinching when they had a shot and consequently, despite dominating for long spells, Saints showed little penetration in the final third.

Just when they needed something to go their way, they got themselves a goal – and with it it seemed three points from which they could take plenty of heart.

But then some old frailties came back to haunt them.

It was evidence of that vicious circle that failing to win games can bring you, especially when you have a young team.

The key for Jan Poortvliet now is to make sure he takes the positives out of this game and gives his team a little more confidence.

There is no doubt the head coach believes in the ability of his young side, but all too often they seem to lack belief in themselves.

That is why in the final third, that most vital of areas, they have come unstuck.

And that is why, when they can get their noses in front, they are prone to panic and allow sides back into the game, just as they did against Coventry. Saints came out of the traps like a team determined to prove they have what it takes to recover from their recent setbacks.

They pinned Coventry back and, despite the Sky Blues having three front players, they spent more time behind the ball desperately trying to contain Saints than they did looking for a goal themselves.

But again it was Saints’ inability to convert in the final third that was hurting them.

Andrew Surman showed their intentions on two minutes, needing no second invitation to shoot but dragging his shot well wide. The midfielder created a much better chance three minutes later.

He held the ball up in the box with his back to goal and laid it into the path of Adam Lallana, whose side footed finish was unconvincing and straight at Keiren Westwood.

McGoldrick was the next to threaten a minute later but also fired well wide while a Coventry defender testheader from Rudi Skacel’s left wing cross.

For all that, though, Saints only got a stinging effort on target five minutes before the break when Jason Euell’s cross picked out McGoldrick who connected perfectly with an acrobatic volley, but possibly too well as it went straight at Westwood. The danger of not scoring when you’re on top was all too obvious, though.

For all Saints’ good play it was Coventry who came closer to taking the lead.

Freddy Eastwood’s turn and shot forced a save from Kelvin Davis while Scott Dann should have done much better when allowed a header in the box from Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw.

It was really panic stations on 34 minutes when Skacel’s weak header let in Clinton Morrison. Davis was quickly off his line to half block the shot and Paul Wotton got back to stop the ball going in. A minute before the break Eastwood caused problems again but Davis was equal to it with a reaction save on the line.

Saints enjoyed less dominance after the break but, ironically, it was then that their goal came. Lloyd James picked up the ball on the right and cut a cross to far post and McGoldrick.

He managed to control and get inside to buy a yard of space and produce a shot that beat Westwood and found the far corner. At that stage it seemed Saints had something to build on but they retreated, nervously thinking about defending the lead.

Sure enough, that cost them as just seven minutes later Coventry levelled. It was a strange goal as the ball ricocheted about with Saints unable to clear before finding Morrison through on goal and he made no mistake with a low finish past Davis.

Both sides threatened in the closing stages but Davis and Westwood were equal to everything that was thrown at them and the scores remained level.

In truth it was a far better point for Coventry than Saints who really need to find some confidence from somewhere very soon.