IT's ironic that Che Adams, the striker Saints hoped to sign in January, scored a first-half hat-trick while his transfer-window suitors struggled to break down a Cardiff City side that leapfrogged them out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Saints' failure to sign Birmingham City’s 19-goal striker may prove more costly than the asking price given their loss of four points in injury time – against two of their nearest rivals - since the transfer window slammed shut ten days ago.

The need for a number nine who can hold the ball up and bring others into play - as well as provide a cutting edge - was patently missing against a Cardiff side which came for a point and was allowed to leave with all three.

Without the creativity of hamstrung duo Danny Ings and Stuart Armstrong, Saints were short of ideas. Nathan Redmond cannot be expected to do it all on his own.

Losing two points at Burnley was one thing. At least that was still a decent result away from home.

But throwing away a hard-earned draw at home to one of the few teams below them was quite another.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s near apoplexy was understandable and the sight of James Ward-Prowse thumping the ground in frustration was a reminder, if it were needed, that the players care very much.

But after equalising through Jack Stephens, the carelessness with which they conceded a second was hard to fathom.

Unified by the Emiliano Sala tragedy, Cardiff have found a new level in recent weeks.

It is hoped that Saints’ first defeat of 2019 proves to be a mere blip and not the end of the Hasenhuttl ‘bounce’.

Saints were two minutes from extending their unbeaten run to six games, which would have been their longest undefeated start to a calendar year in the top-flight since 1982.

Instead, they are left to stew on an under-par two points from three winnable games against Crystal Palace, Burnley and Cardiff during their Tenerife sojourn.

It could so easily have been five, but these are the fine margins by which Premier League survival and relegation are usually decided.

The good news is that Saints still have to play the other four teams in the bottom eight before the end of the season.

But with trips to Arsenal and Manchester United coming up, it is imperative that Saints remember how to way to win at St Mary’s when Fulham visit at the end of the month.