THE manner of Saints’ first defeat in seven games was as dramatic as their recent improvement.

Just when it looked like they were heading for a fifth win in six Premier League games, a result that would have put them level on points with Wolves and above tomorrow night’s opponents Crystal Palace into ninth place, some familiar weaknesses resurfaced.

Giving away 2-0 leads at St Mary’s was a nasty habit not so long ago.

Saints’ collapse was reminiscent of a few matches during Mark Hughes’ tenure, most notably the 3-2 defeat at home to Chelsea in April 2018.

On that occasion, Jan Bednarek put Saints 2-0 up on his Premier League debut, ironically with his only previous goal for the club.

So his second Saints goal provided an unfortunate case of déjà vu, especially as it was a virtual carbon copy; a side-footed half volley at the far post on his left side from a James Ward-Prowse free kick.

Saints also failed to hold on to 2-0 leads at St Mary’s in draws against Brighton and Manchester United under Hughes at the beginning of last season.

Other old wounds were opened up by Wolves as Saints struggled against the power and pace of Adama Traore.

The Spanish winger made a huge difference after being switched to a more central role alongside Raul Jiminez at half-time.

No doubt aware of how Saints were cowed by the speed and strength of West Ham’s Michail Antonio when they were last beaten five weeks previously, Nuno Esperito Santo shrewdly deployed Traore down the middle.

Traore is one of the best examples you will see of the cliché ‘a fantastic touch for a big man’ and Saints found the former Barcelona youngster’s awesome combination of physicality and fleet-footed dexterity too much to cope with in the second half.

Although there was a clear handball in the build-up to Raul’s winner, it was hard to argue with the result or the decision to award the penalty, although the wait of several minutes for VAR to over-rule the decision by referee Darren England, who was making his Premier League debut, is another issue.

Panic set in, as Saints conceded three goals in a Premier League game for the first time since Leicester City’s infamous visit.

Despite taking ten points from their previous five home games, Saints have now lost more than half their matches at St Mary’s this season.

The energy expended by the high press meant tiredness from the incredible efforts over the previous two months must also have been a factor in the second-half demise.

So it is fair to assume Hasenhuttl will not field an unchanged team when Saints aim for a fourth successive away win, at Selhurst Park tomorrow night.