SAINTS may need to change their thought processes if they are to stop conceding crucial late goals - and stay in the Premier League.

That is the view of sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson, following the loss of three points in injury time against fellow strugglers Burnley and Cardiff City.

Saints have only taken four points from seven Premier League matches in which they have led this season.

They have lost nine points in the last ten minutes of matches and have given away four two-goal leads, twice under Mark Hughes and twice in last month’s FA Cup ties against Derby County.

But the failure to hold on for a draw against Cardiff, having scored an injury-time equaliser of their own, was the toughest moment of the season so far.

“If they think there’s a pattern there can be an expectation that it’s going to happen time and time again,” explains Dr Thompson.

“So they might be thinking ‘we’re likely to suffer a defeat in the last minute’ or ‘we can’t close it out’.

“It might be this belief is individually held in some key players which negatively affects the way the team plays because they’re believing these things and then these things come true.

“It’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that they get exactly what they expect.

“Or it may be this is something communicated explicitly or implicitly by people in the team or other key people.

“The vibe becomes ‘we can get off to a good start but then watch out for the latter section because it can all turn’.

“So then you’ve got this negative expectation. You might think that’s good because you know what the pattern is and you know to be wary of that and do something different.

“But actually it can be tricky to overcome. If you have the belief that something will happen, in a bizarre way it makes sense to the brain for it to happen even though it’s undesirable.

“There can be some easy solutions if you think it’s more of a fuelling, nutrition or a fitness thing. If that’s why the lights are dimming towards the end of a game more than for the other side.

“But if the loss of focus towards the end of a game is a psychology thing, it’s then looking at what can be done to help keep their spirits and drive up towards the end.

“Is it thinking ‘let’s just keep our lead’ or ‘let’s hammer back at them towards the end’ or ‘let’s go for another goal’ and risk things a bit more.

“It’s about trying to work out what they think would help their approach towards the end of a game, individually and collectively.

“Thinking about what could motivate and fire them up towards the end can be a good thing.

“About the upside of them turning it around. Show them that it doesn’t have to be this way by reminding them of times in the past when they have turned it around.”

Dr Thompson believes it would be instructive for Saints to reflect on their 3-2 win against Arsenal, when they scored an 85th-minute winner after conceding two equalisers.

To recall their success at Huddersfield Town, when they conceded at 2-0 before winning 3-1.

To visualise the 2-1 win at Leicester, when they held on with ten men throughout the second half. Or their most recent success, the 2-1 win against Everton at St Mary’s last month.

“Getting them to relive and experience those memories of when they did it is important,” he continued.

“So the dominant story isn’t ‘we can’t close it out, we can’t turn it around at the end and we all walk away dragging our knuckles on the ground feeling really miserable’.”

Not for the first time, Saints paid the price for defending too deeply at Burnley.

“It may be they become a bit cautious naturally, a bit protective” continued Dr Thompson.

“But the players are experienced professionals so it’s not about introducing something new. They just need help doing more of what’s helped them before. The season isn’t over, there’s still time.”

You can read more from Dr Thompson at