Mark Hughes was left to rue his Southampton side's painfully poor performance as they slipped to a 3-0 defeat at West Ham United.
The Saints were brushed aside in the opening period by their fellow Premier League strugglers as goals from Joao Mario and Marko Arnautovic put the hosts in command before the interval.
Speaking to the Saints' official site in the aftermath of the contest, Hughes admitted that he was at a loss over his team's display at the London Stadium against a side that appeared to be bereft of confidence too.
But the ex-Stoke boss stated that the game was as good as over by half-time thanks to his side's insipid first 45 showing.
He lamented: “We were poor. The opening period of a game is vitally important. You have to understand as the away team that the home team is going to come flying out of the blocks and you have to be ready to go yourself.
“Unfortunately, as happened against Newcastle, a very similar situation unfolded today.
📅 15th December:— SPORF (@Sporf) March 31, 2018
🗣 Mark Hughes: "I think Marko hoped he’d be going to the next level....but that wasn’t the case." 🤷♂️
📅 16th December:
⚽️ Marko Arnautovic Scores v Mark Hughes' Stoke. 👀
📅 31st March:
⚽️ Marko Arnautovic Scores TWICE vs Mark Hughes' Southampton. 🐸 pic.twitter.com/bg0hiznsSO
“We’ve got to stop that trait being a permanent thing because it’s damaging us too critically at the moment.
“Key moments in games are the opening periods and either side of the half-time break. We didn’t navigate those moments well enough and conceded too readily.
“Going in at 3-0, the game was over at that point. We were slightly better in the second half in terms of possession, but never really looked at any stage like we were going to get a foothold in the game.
Think Southampton have finally got to the stage where Liverpool won’t be interested in any of their players in the summer.— Sibs (@SibsMUFC) March 31, 2018
(You may also be interested in West Ham 3-0 Southampton: Happy Hammers See Off Sorry Saints in Relegation Six Pointer)
“We’ve got to be a lot better. The group is honest enough: they’ll look at themselves on an individual basis and collectively, and they need to come in on Monday ready to take things on the chin.”
Southampton remain rooted in 18th position in the league standings with six matches left of the 2017/18 campaign, and are five clears from safety ahead of the next round of fixtures.