RALPH Hasenhuttl lamented Saints’ missed opportunities at Newcastle – but their inability to keep a clean sheet is an even bigger issue.

With Danny Ings in scintillating form you know that if he’s given half a chance, the ball will end up in the back of the net.

This was again evident at St James’ Park when he made of the most of a defensive error to slot home past Martin Dubravka.

It meant that he’s now scored in Saints’ last five Premier League ties – equalling the record set by James Beattie back in 2003.

Despite this being all well and good, the St Mary’s outfit were again undone by their failure to keep Newcastle quiet at the other end.

It would be unfair to say Alex McCarthy had an awful game – he didn’t – but he certainly could have done better in the build-up to Newcastle’s winner.

The goalkeeper’s parry was tipped straight into the danger area, allowing Federico Fernandez the simplest of tap-ins to seal a win in the 87th minute.

Newcastle’s opener begs questions of the defenders rather than McCarthy, due to Jonjo Shelvey being afforded the time to direct his header home in a box full of Saints players.

You have to go back 11 games to when Hasenhuttl’s side last managed to keep a clean sheet, which simply isn’t good enough and, in that spell, they’ve conceded 29 times.

It goes without saying that McCarthy isn’t entirely responsible for that damaging statistic but since he came into the team in place of Angus Gunn he is yet to prevent the opposition from scoring.

What makes the problem even worse is that Fraser Forster is having an excellent loan spell with Celtic.

The loanee played a key role in helping them beat Rangers in the final of the Scottish Cup, having saved a penalty.

Yes, people will say ‘It’s only Scotland’, but his record in the Europa League is also impressive.

Due to Hasenhuttl already taking Gunn out of the team and replacing him with McCarthy, there is little else he can do to try and improve things.

However, if Saints are to be successful in avoiding relegation, it’s an issue that needs resolving sooner rather than later.

You might not win the game if you don’t concede but you can’t lose it, either.