March is a brilliant, uplifting, magnificent month that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

The miserable wet darkness of the first two months of the year is swept away and evenings become part of life again, as opposed to excuses to count how few things you need to watch on the telly before it’s acceptable to go to bed.

It also tends to be the most vital month of the football season, as pretenders to the throne are ruthlessly exposed and fall away from title/promotion contention, while those who were only ever having a drama about being relegated, safely pull away to be replaced by those that looked comfortable but are embarking on an unstoppable slide, slithering down the deck into the gaping mouth of Jaws.

Saturday’s game against Southampton would go some way into sorting its participants into category a or b. Who had the stomach to stay the course in this multi-faceted relegation battle royale…and who was heading for the shark’s belly? This was a proper six-pointer and the longer it went on, the more nerves would fray and fingernails would be gnashed.

Thank (deity of your choice) then, that things were as good as settled before anyone really got sat down. Shelvey knocked a terrific ball high in behind the defence and Kenedy was on to it. I didn’t really appreciate what an incredible first touch he took until I saw the replay, chesting the ball as he turned before sending a controlled shot past McCarthy. Proper Brazilian this lad.

A period of sitting back followed from United but encouraging signs were there in abundance. Shelvey and Diame in midfield continues to work a treat, as they bossed this game in the way they left off last time at SJP against Man Utd. Lejeune, now injury free, has settled in and is being quietly immense every week and Paul Dummett was once again the owner of anyone daft enough to turn up on HIS side of the pitch. Southampton had a bit of a go as Rafa’s side played it cautious but they were soon undone in part by their own incompetence.

Gayle had a chance when the Saints decided they all didn’t want to accept a pass out of defence and he robbed Hojberg to suddenly create a 2 v 1 on the keeper. Dwight elected to rush his shot when the pass to Perez may have been a better option and McCarthy gathered easily. It wasn’t long before Southampton offered no threat from their own corner, and Lemina elected to spurn the option of returning the second ball, in favour of falling over on his backside. Perez seized the loose ball and advanced up the pitch with Kenedy for company, but the star of this move was Dwight Gayle, who ran from his own six yard box past the whole Southampton team to take the pass from Perez, and still had the awareness to slide it over for the unmarked Kenedy to tap in at the far post. It looked brilliant in real time and gets better with every replay, counter-attacking at it’s silky, brilliant best.

At half time, a stunning realisation dawned that every single other result was going the way we needed it to. This did not stop me having more than one conversation with fellow Mags who expressed in various different vernacular that we had better not exercise our omnipotent capability to nause, fudge or foul this up. Bournemouth maybe still a bit fresh in the mind here I reckon.

The next 45 minutes provided a quiet but emphatic answer. The score was extended beyond doubt on the hour, as Shelvey tormented the opposition with a mazy dribble, drawing enough defenders to allow a simple lay off to present Ritchie with a free shot. He found the corner with his precise shot and an unfortunate fans head with his blootered corner flag.

The rest of the game was a bit of a canter, as Dubravka comfortably gathered Sims speculative drive that must have been Southampton’s only shot on target and Perez headed narrowly over in United’s only half chance. I thought it may have been an opportunity to go for the jugular here and bust the confidence and goal difference of a relegation rival with 3 weeks rest ahead, but 3-0 it was and that would more than do.

Astonishingly, the full times revealed that all results had remained in our favour, and the late kick off only added to that, as Newcastle were the major winners in the bottom half of the table.

As well as our own decent showing though, I have other reasons to feel that today may be the one where relegation became other people’s problem. Jermaine Jenas would later describe Southampton as “borderline disgraceful” on Match of the Day, but I would argue there was no borderline about it, as the Saints failed to instil any concern beyond the inherent paranoia that come with being Newcastle United.

There is clearly a disjoint between Southampton’s players and manager and it may just be too late to correct this, especially given their ominous fixture run in.

Today may have seen the worst opposition that has turned up at SJP this year, which is a pretty poor return for the distance travelled by their fans, and I can see no other destiny for them than joining the Great Pardinho in the Championship.

With West Ham imploding spectacularly and five points the gap now, we may even be able to relax over Easter, especially if we can end this excellent month with more of the same v Huddersfield.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 3 Southampton 0


Newcastle: Kenedy 2, 29, Ritchie 57

Possession was Southampton 63% Newcastle 37%

Total shots were  Southampton 6 Newcastle 7

Shots on target were Southampton 2 Newcastle 5

Corners were  Southampton 6 Newcastle 2

Referee: Andre Marriner

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Merino 83), Kenedy (Atsu 78), Gayle (Joselu 69)

Unused Subs:

Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Murphy

Crowd: 52,246 (Southampton 1,600)

(Alan Shearer raves about loan signing and Newcastle’s win but admits to mixed emotions. Read HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the three goal win HERE)

(Mauricio Pellegrino couldn’t believe what he was watching – His reaction HERE)

(3 positives and 3 negatives from Saturday’s match – Read HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here

  • Paul Patterson

    I stated last week that the teams below us have a horrific run in AND still have to play each other. We’ve obtained three of the nine points I feel will be required to stay up. Huddersfield next up with West Brom a few weeks later will hopefully provide the other six and we also have the best goal difference in the bottom half. Meanwhile, everyone else will hopefully be dropping points, getting beat by larger margins than us meaning we survive and all the while the mackems drop into league 1.
    Nice to have some positivity- Happy days and well done Rafa. Howay the lads!

    • Peaky Magpie

      Southampton run in looks pretty grim….

    • Jezza

      Happy days was when we were beating Barcelona in the Champions League not being in with a chance of avoiding relegation by the skin of our teeth. Do not accept Ashley’s chronic lowering of standards and expectations at our once proud club.

      • Paul Patterson

        I never said I was, but we are a newly promoted side. Not many sides, if any just get promoted and then storm the top six.
        This is a Championship squad with a couple of decent Premier League plyers in it, that has just added two quality players to it in Kenedy and Dubravka. If our sackless owner had sanctioned them two deals (or something similar) in August we would’ve been safe long ago . .

        • Jezza

          I never expected us to be in the top six this season. I fully recognise that avoiding relegation with this squad of players would be a fantastic achievement.

          The trouble is that avoiding relegation by the skin of our teeth is as good as it’s ever going to get. There is no ambition at this club other than to keep it on the Premiership gravytrain to line the owner’s pockets with television money and to provide free world wide advertising for his core sweat shop business.

          That is nothing to get excited about, especially when clubs like Watford, Bournemouth and Burnley are pushing to establish themselves in the top half of the table. Those clubs and others like them such as Huddersfield, Brighton, Southampton, Crystal Palace and even Championship hopefuls like Wolves and Middlesbrough are regularly buying players for £15 million or more while Newcastle United have to make do with loans and even then the owner won’t always saction those loans as the Daniel Sturridge debacle demonstrated. Newcastle supporters can not be seen to be accepting any of that.

          • Paul Patterson

            True. The positive from all that is them clubs have tried and they are failing.
            They spent much more than we did yet are all fighting relegation. We haven’t tried yet. That’s shameful on our part but a bit of a slap in the face for those that spent much more.
            Here’s a thought, see what Everton spent in the summer- (£30m on a keeper alone) they are five points ahead of us- That is shocking . .

          • Jezza

            Fair comment. Everton are a perfect example that spending big does not guarantee success. On the other hand Newcastle United are a perfect example that not spending does guarantee failure.

          • Mark Potter

            What failure? You’ve already written us off. Doom and gloom. Doom and gloom.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            What Everton have found and for that matter west Ham is that making expensive mistakes cannot be reversed. Everton’s problems may be easier to resolve as they just need a bit of pace but this expensive players are stuck at Everton and West Ham, they are not moving.

            I think our strategy is to survive and kick on in the summer. It’s a slow recovery though.

          • kingfisher

            Well said Jezz, but as we’ve said before, it doesn’t matter how badly Ashley and his cronies treat Newcastle United Football Club, there will always be a full house at S.J.P, and those fans that go regardless, are part of the problem, and until they realise that they are endorsing everything that Ashley does by keeping going every other week, then nothing will change!!

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            So we should be glory seekers?

          • kingfisher

            No bobbi,we should’nt be glory seekers and only go when we are winning.A good supporter supports his team through the good times and bad times,but there comes a time when people have got to realise that if they keep going week after week they are playing into Ashleys hand and nothing will ever change because it does’nt have to if 52,000 turn up at S.J.P every other week.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            To what end? At the moment, Rafa gets the money the club generates, reducing that money will not make investment go up.

          • glassjawsh-got-banned

            while I agree with almost everything you said here, I wouldn’t call missing on Sturridge a debacle, I’d call it unintentionally dodging a bullet!

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            “clubs like Watford, Bournemouth and Burnley are pushing to establish themselves in the top half of the table”

            We are 1 point behind (should be ahead) of Bournemouth, 4 points short of Watford who think we’ll beat. We must be ambitious in your book.

            Personally, I think we will finish above the 13th spot that we finished in 2006-7 before Mike arrived.

  • Peaky Magpie

    Can’t help feeling we’ve been given a bit of luck (like a few other teams around us) as I don’t think WBA or Stoke would be in the position they are in now if they’d kept Pulis & Hughes respectively….but it is what it is and we now need to fully grab our opportunity by next putting ‘Uddersfield to the sword….

    • kingfisher

      Problem is Mr. Peaky, does Rafa play Slimani if he’s fit or stick with the side which battered Southampton? I suppose he could be a super sub if things aren’t going our way?

      • Peaky Magpie

        Think he’ll stick with this same team now as long as they are all fit…bench only for Slimani as you say.

      • thewildchimp

        He will probably decide after the Antwerp match. Slimani is theoretically the best we have right now, the only question being is he fit enough.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      Stoke were yerrible with Hughes, 2 games where we destroyed the opposition.

  • Rabid Dog

    This is what we have become. Celebrating probably not being relegated. Ca$hly has A LOT to answer for.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      As opposed to celebrating a mixing the drop in the season before Ashley arrived?

      • Rabid Dog

        No. Acceptance that our owner is not interested in football just the cheap tat he can flog off the back of the non revenue generating advertising he gets. We lower our ambitions for our club as a result. Rejoicing in loan signings. Crazy.

        Newcastle United has been asset stripped consistently in his tenure as owner.

        • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

          Why care? Owners have their reasons for owning a football club. Man City are a vehicle to promote the Etihad companies just as Sports Direct brands are promoted through NUFC.

          The advertiser gets better value if we are successful as we get more exposure.

          How have we been asset stripped? When Ashley too over the we had negetive assets in the club of £17m, 10 years on, we have £34m more assets within the club.

          • Rabid Dog

            The first 2 words of your reply perfectly sum up my point.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Man City fans don’t care about their owners advertising their brands.

            What about the likely new owners when they arrive? Are you going to be upset at them advertising brands?

            Owners buy football clubs to either make money which tends to put the club at risk, promote their company or as an expensive plaything. Not many are about to do the plaything option so you are left with the former.

          • Rabid Dog

            Again, displaying exactly the apathy our support has become used to.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            That’s a bit of a daft argument. Every owner we’v had from Seymour to Ashley have promoted their business. You say we’ve been asset stripped, we’ve clearly not been.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            I really don’t get the problem. Football club owners buy football clubs for a reason and the days of the local business owner who’s a bit of a fan wants to have a dabble and even then, he used to advertise his wares at the football club.

  • Leazes.

    Jamie : You were one of the fools that followed Ryders lead in attacking Shelvey…maybe you should just ignore the idiot after all he doesn’t have United at heart. He’s damaging, he spins like a spinny thing!

    • Peaky Magpie

      Ronnie’s very own Alistair Campbell..

      • Leazes.

        Opposite spin….

  • Kev-82

    West Brom are gone, West Ham imploding and looking at Southampton’s run in (below) they are going to need a miracle.

    Southampton HOME: Chelsea, Bournemouth, Man City
    AWAY: Swansea, West Ham, Arsenal, Leicester, Everton

    • Paul Patterson

      I still think the teams that are there now, will be the ones that will go. West Brom, Stoke, Palace.

      • TheNutJob

        if you look at Palace`s remaining fixtures they have a good chance of staying up

      • Kev-82

        Palace probably have the best run in of the whole bottom half. I think it will be WBA & Southampton but the 3rd place I’m unsure but I’m going to say between West Ham & Stoke, I even think Huddersfield could be dragged back in yet or even us if Huddersfield take the 3 points in our next game.

      • FatParosite

        I am in agreement. All the talk at the end of the season will be about the teams that came up last season ALL avoiding the drop. We have been incredibly lucky & Benitez has earned his handsome wedge by saving Ashley’s undeserving bacon.

  • 1957

    It was a strange experience for me on Saturday. After Kenedy scored his first I had no worries about Southampton coming back into it, normally when we surrender possession I expect the worst.

    Southampton were clueless, they look real candidates for the drop

  • Paul Patterson

    Southampton have sacked their manager.