Mauricio Pellegrino blamed a lack of confidence from his players for their second half slump against Crystal Palace.

Saints find themselves separated from the relegation zone only by goal difference following a dispiriting 2-1 home defeat to Roy Hodgson’s side.

Saints took the lead in the first half through Shane Long, but sat back in the second period and Palace took full advantage to bag a massive win in the wind and rain at St Mary’s.

Pellegrino said: “It was the lack of confidence of the players. Sometimes we pass the ball backwards or didn’t go forward with the intention to try and go forward and to be dangerous.

“We had the intention to pass the time and this when your confidence is not high because you want to keep the results. That sometimes works against you.”

Saints came into the game on the back of what seemed a morale boosting draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but it appeared to count for little when it mattered most.

“It was a difficult night because I think the history change completely in the second half when we show another face in the first half,” said Pellegrino.

“We gave them the possibility to be in the game and I think we played five metres deeper in the second and we gave Crystal Palace the chance to be there with long balls that created troubles.

“When we kept the possession we maintained the ball but not with the strength to go forward to score the second one.

“We never read the game in the best way because with the conditions and the pitch heavy sometimes we had to play more simple, even more when you’re winning 1-0.”

He added: “They were playing much better at Old Trafford than today, with more confidence, better possession and passes.

“My players are the same apart from Jeremy (Pied) and Ryan (Bertrand) the full backs. Sometimes the lack of confidence effect everything.

“It’s a difficult moment that’s part of our job, part of our profession and now we have to react because we are in a difficult moment.”

There was at least one bright spot in the game as Long ended a wait that stretched back to February for a goal.

“I am happy with him but not happy because we couldn’t convert this goal in points,” reflected Pellegrino, whose side now face an FA Cup trip to Championship side Fulham.

“Shane is a worker, his spirit really good waiting for his opportunity.

“Hopefully he can score in the next few games to increase the confidence for everybody.”