RUSSELL Martin said Saints reaction to going ahead was "passive" after they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Jonny Howson's second-half penalty secured a first win of the season for Michael Carrick's Boro, while Southampton slumped to a fourth straight loss.

The hosts created a slew of chances in the final 20 minutes and were denied a third when Riley McGree hit the bost as Saints threw bodies forward for an equaliser.

Speaking after the game, Martin was disappointed with how his side failed to retain possession of the ball.

He said: "I thought we were actually better than we have been. We started the game well. We stole the ball really well and Che (Adams) should have scored. Our goal was really good.

“That reaction to going ahead was passive. When we go 1-0 ahead, the mentality of the entire team totally changes.

"We didn't keep hold of the ball. If you're not going to press you need to look after the ball. We didn't do any of that. That’s ultimately what hurt us.

“Up until the last 15 minutes, when it became a bit helter-skelter because we were chasing the game, I thought we had loads of control in the second half.

“We looked really creative in the middle of the pitch and then they won a penalty six or seven seconds later. Both of them were pulling each other.

He continued: “I’ve only seen it once, but Taylor (Harwood-Bellis) said he was pulling his shirt as well. I think the referee has guessed. It could have gone either way.

“After that, it’s a bit difficult to create when a team is defending for their life. The energy in the stadium and the crowd were really willing them on.

“We didn’t do enough to break them down. We were chasing the game at the end. We are away from home and we need to draw.

“When you haven’t won in three games you have a choice to make, but you can’t accept a defeat. They cleared it to the big lad up top and they ran off him.

“That maybe affects the stats of the game, but we are really chasing the game. It is what it is.”