Southampton were made to rue their missed chances after Ashley Barnes’ second-half strike consigned them to a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat at Burnley on Saturday afternoon.
Southampton had a chance to take the lead from the spot on the hour mark after George Boyd's trip on Ryan Bertrand, but Tom Heaton tipped Dusan Tadic's ensuing penalty round the post.
Burnley then went on to capitalise with 17 minutes to go, as a defensive horror show from the visitors allowed Barnes to ghost in unmarked before firing in a deflected shot past Fraser Forster.
Southampton could have levelled in the dying seconds, but Victor Wanyama headed just over, as Ronald Koeman’s side have now picked up just one point from their past five fixtures.
Nevertheless, there were a few positives for the Saints to take from the match, most notably the return of midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who made his first appearance since September after recovering from a fractured foot suffered against Swansea City.
The 20-year-old was named among the substitutes at Turf Moor but played almost an hour after replacing Jake Hesketh, who succumbed to injury 32 minutes into his first start for the club.
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Noticeably adding an extra dimension to the attack with his passing and deliveries from set pieces, the England Under-21 international was disappointed with the result on the final whistle, but took heart from an encouraging return to the pitch.
“It was nice to get back on the pitch because it’s been a difficult few months on the sidelines, but ultimately today it was all about getting the three points and unfortunately we didn’t get that today,” he told the club’s official website.
“It was quite difficult, but we knew that before the game and there’s no excuses as we were prepared for that, we knew they’d come out fighting and look to outwork us and we knew we needed to do that first - win the battle, and I felt we were in control, but the penalty miss gave them the momentum to go on.
“The beauty of the Christmas period, though, is that there’s another game around the corner to go again and get back from today which is what we’re looking to do.”
With a trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday for the Capital One Cup quarter-final, before league games against Everton, Crystal Palace and Chelsea to finish the month, Ward-Prowse looks set to play an important role for manager Koeman moving forward, with the Dutchman telling reporters this week: “Having James back is good news because I like him a lot as a player.
"His attacking threat gives us more chances to play.
“He has a fantastic set-piece delivery, he started the season as a first-team player and it is always good to have that kind of player ready to return.”