MIDFIELDER Will Smallbone insisted he does not know why Saints are struggling so much but admitted they have made “a lot of mistakes”.

The St Mary’s side have lost four Championship matches in a row after an unbeaten start to the season under new manager Russell Martin.

Goals in all of the losses against Sunderland, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and most recently Middlesbrough game from errors in possession.

In addition to gifting soft openers and finishers to their opposition, Saints have failed to respond adequately to moments of pressure and disappointment.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Smallbone, who signed a new contract with the club this season after impressing in the first two fixtures, tried to make sense of it.

“I think there is a lot of confidence but I don’t know what it is. We’ve had a lot of mistakes and we seem to be getting punished for mistakes at the minute,” he said.

Daily Echo:

“With the way we’re going to play, there’s obviously going to be some mistakes. We need to be closer and fight for each other to stop mistakes turning into goals.

“It goes the other way, as well. We need to capitalise on mistakes to have that extra edge going forward and get us out of a sticky situation.

“There is a lot of disappointment,” he added, reflecting on the result at Riverside Stadium. “Once we scored, I’d have liked to push on a bit more and not let them back into the game.

“We should have put them away but the goal before half-time, as it has in other games, changes the momentum of the game.

“We did control the game better after the break but we conceded another sloppy goal and we need to cut that out going forward.”

Adam Armstrong scored his fifth of the season to give Saints a lead in the northeast – their first away trip since the 5-0 hammering at Sunderland.

However, Mason Holgate, who may not have got a man-on shout from his teammates, was caught in possession and Riley McGree equalised just minutes before the break.

It was the third time in four that Saints had conceded just before getting in at half-time, altering the landscape of the ties. Martin attempted to rally the troops.

Smallbone revealed: “He just said get back to playing the way he wants and the way we know. After we scored, we sat back a little bit and we didn’t keep the ball as we would have liked.

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“Conceding set us back a bit but I still believe we had enough in that changing room and should have come out with a positive result in the game.”

Smallbone’s role has changed during the course of the season, starting as the holding man in a midfield three for the first two before defensive issues forced a rethink.

It was the third time a trio of the Irish international, West Ham loanee Flynn Downes and defensive-minded Shea Charles had started together at Riverside Stadium.

It meant Smallbone starting in a more advanced role and he should have recorded an assist for Che Adams – but for the Scotland international firing wide one-on-one.

Martin may opt for another change when Leeds United visit on Saturday but the boss felt this design was the most balanced he had found so far.

“I’m happy to do whatever the gaffer asks me. Last season, I played a lot as the attacking midfielder in a (Stoke City) team,” Smallbone said.

“I have been asked to be more in that defensive midfielder role. I go out there and try my best whatever the gaffer asks of me. Whatever position, I try to do it to the best of my ability.

“We need to make sure we get a good result against Leeds. It’s a big occasion and we need to give the fans a performance and a result they deserve and to be proud of.”