SAINTS travelled to bottom-of-the-table Middlesbrough trying to end a poor run of form but were instead condemned to a fourth consecutive defeat.

Russell Martin’s side slipped even further down the table as the hosts came from behind to win 2-1 at Riverside Stadium. 

Adam Armstrong opened the scoring with his fifth of the campaign and frustrated home fans represented what they had seen so far all season.

However, a long-range goal from Riley McGree after a Mason Holgate mistake and a Jonny Howson penalty, conceded by Taylor Harwood-Bellis, completed a comeback.

Martin had not beaten Middlesbrough in four attempts as manager before kick-off, losing both at Riverside Stadium while in charge of Swansea City.

The hosts had not kept a clean sheet in 11 matches while Southampton’s record without was over 20 – the fixture promised goals.

Martin’s three changes appeared on the surface a little pragmatic with Jan Bednarek, Mason Holgate and Flynn Downes replacing Ryan Manning, Joe Aribo and Sam Edozie.

It meant Holgate, who had not played since his debut in the 5-0 defeat at Sunderland, operating as a right-back with Shea Charles moved to holding midfield.

Boro were on top early and found it easy to get in behind Southampton’s high line but Charles made several key interventions inside his own box.

Che Adams missed the first big chance of the afternoon as Will Smallbone sent him one-on-one, as he fired wide from range with goalkeeper Seny Dieng backtracking.

The Scotland international set up best mate Armstrong for the opener, though, after Downes had won back possession high up in the Boro half.

Armstrong took one touch to beat the keeper and slotted in with a left-footed finish for his fifth Championship goal of the season after 17 minutes.

Saints were lucky not to see a speedy leveller from a Boro counter-attack as Riley McGree slid in a shot across to the back-post – the ball bounced up off him and rolled along the goallline.

However, McGree did get his goal one minute before half-time. Isaih Jones crept on Holgate and stole possession, allowing McGree to strike low past Bazunu to restore parity.

Martin made an early change with Manning replacing Holgate and the Irishman was involved early but Southampton continued to concede possession in dangerous areas.

It was past the hour mark and Saints had hardly threatened Dieng’s goal when Championship winner Taylor Harwood-Bellis pulled Josh Coburn down in the area.

The referee pointed to the spot and Howson finished to Bazunu’s right to put Middlesbrough on course for a first win of the Championship season.

Kamaldeen Sulemana, Stuart Armstrong and Sam Edozie all came on shortly after, with Joe Aribo introduced in the final 10 minutes, but it was Bazunu forced into a save to keep the game alive.

Harwood-Bellis’s midfield pass to Downes was short and the Irishman produced a good stop with his foot to turn over from Coburn.

Harwood-Bellis was again the unfortunate culprit as he allowed a Boro counter and McGree smashed off the post in the final five minutes of regulation time.

Sam Edozie was denied by a diving Dieng but Saints came no closer in five minutes of added time and Middlesbrough recorded a first win of the season.

Middlesbrough: Dieng; Van den Berg (Smith, 73), Fry, Lenihan, Howson, Jones (Silvera, 91), Hackney, Crooks (Greenwood, 69), O’Brien, McGree, Coburn.

Unused subs: Glover, McNair, Engel, Barlaser, Lath, Rogers.

Booked: Jones.

Saints: Bazunu, Holgate (Manning, h-t), Bednarek, Harwood-Bellis, Walker-Peters; Charles (S Armstrong, 72), Downes, Smallbone (Aribo, 82); Fraser (Kamaldeen, 69), A Armstrong, Adams (Edozie, 72).

Unused subs: McCarthy, Bree, Alcaraz, Mara.

Booked: Martin.

Referee: Tim Robinson.