Mark Hughes admitted his frustration at Saints’ lacklustre start which led them getting thumped by Manchester City.

Saints were always going to be up against it at the Etihad Stadium but didn’t help themselves as they froze in the opening stages to fall 3-0 behind after just 18 minutes.

They rallied slightly and finally broke their goalscoring duck from the penalty spot but then shipped three more goals to leaving them on the wrong end of a 6-1 thrashing.

Hughes said: “That was the game gone for us right from the outset and any other work you have prepared in the week and the game plan you want to implement against a very good Manchester City side goes out the window when you conceded very early.

“We weren’t strong enough in that opening period.

“In the first 10-15 minutes it doesn’t matter what the opposition you need to be strong in that period and very quickly the game’s gone away from us. That’s a disappointment.

“We had a slight response and got the penalty and at 3-1 you think ‘ok, let’s try and build a platform to have a performance to be proud of.’

“The goals at the end of the first half and at the end of 90 minutes has given the scoreline probably a fair reflection on the chances created you have to say. City’s clear cut chances were better than ours.

“Second half there was a response and I demanded a response in the second half. We were better in terms of what we were trying to do and attacking wise we had good moments but we were never going to get anything out of this game because of the opening period.”

He added: “In the second half certainly we had to keep going and it’s difficult when you are down in a game and you can’t overcommit because Man City have the ability and capacity to run over the top of you and it gets even more embarrassing.

“At 6-1 it’s not a result we take any pride in but the fact we were asking questions late on in the game when clearly it had gone away from us shows the character of the group is good.

“In key moments City will always ask questions of you in and around your own box.

“They move the ball very quickly and are very adept. They are the best team at drawing you to the ball then offloading and committing people and that’s where they are very good and they speed their play up at the top end of the pitch and it’s very difficult.

“In the opening period we needed to do a lot better than we were able to.

“It’s something for us to take from the game and something we need to learn from the opening period but this game isn’t going to define our season.

“We have to make sure elements of our play which were poor are better when we go up against teams that don’t have and won’t show the quality that Man City have.”