Newcastle 3 Southampton 2 match report – One to remember and savour
So, let’s have a quick check on where we stood heading into this one.
Behind all the madness on the pitch, there remain bubblings about the potential takeover that would transform the club beyond recognition. Some people will be certain this is no longer an option and others believe it is only a matter of time.
The truth surely lies somewhere in the middle, as developments in the courtroom and the Middle East play out over the coming months.
What is a certainty is that a huge relegation-shaped spanner thrown into the works would derail everything, as a stand off would ensue over £300 million+ for a Championship club. In short, Steve Bruce’s miserable management could destroy the club’s future.
The gap to third-bottom Fulham stood at a reasonably healthy eight points, but with Chelsea and Man Utd away next and the Cottagers holding a game in hand, this game was already elevated to ‘must win’ status in the bid for disaster avoidance that is the only show in toon now.
You literally could not have picked a better time to play Southampton. With a squad so injury-ravaged they had to name two goalies on the bench before collecting a midweek suspension, they were low on personnel and Tuesday night’s 9-0 shellacking at Old Trafford will have decimated confidence ahead of the Saints rocking up at SJP.
However, anyone who had any degree of confidence in United seizing this opportunity had not been paying attention this season, or during the history of Newcastle United in general.
The return of Vestergaard and Romeu coupled with a debut for Liverpool loanee Minamino gave the visitors a slightly more ominous look, but they were still a patched together side, which United had to seize the initiative against. A debut for Willock and a first start since November for Saint-Maximin were causes for cautious optimism.
The presence of ASM was instantly felt as a mazy run ended with him sending Bednarek for some chips and walking into the box but the cutback couldn’t quite find Almiron. Moments later he released Manquillo, whose ball over was volleyed tamely goalward by Wilson. Could this be one of those games Allan wins for us by himself.
Wilson did have the ball in the net shortly after but he was marginally offside from Shelvey’s well weighted through ball. Southampton for their part looked threatening on the counter, with a nudge in the box on Ings by Willock quickening the pulse before the offside flag saved us.
Willock’s next contribution was to be far more positive. Once again ASM destroyed Saints down the left hand side after latching onto another fine long ball from Shelvey and this time he picked out his man perfectly, the onrushing debutant blasting in the opener.
This was a terrific boost, but I’m sure most watching fans will have shared my immediate concern of letting the visitors back in, with Darlow needing to come out and save from Ings from a tight angle and Manquillo’s departure with injury adding to an already depleted defence.
Fortunately, a bit of breathing space was swiftly added, ASM again leading the charge down that left side before playing in Almiron, whose shot was bundled into the net by the unfortunate Bednarek, notching his second own goal of the week after contributing to Man Utd’s massive score. Thoughts of Newcastle racking up similar figures were swiftly dismissed by me.
Things started to wobble on the half hour as Bertrand found a bit of space in the gap left by Manquillo to play in Minamino, whose first touch took it away from Hayden before rifling an unstoppable drive into the top of the net from a difficult angle. Hmmm, this is going to go wrong isn’t it?
The sight of Wilson limping off did nothing to help the nerves, although I’d prefer him to have been withdrawn rather than exacerbate any injury. I’d also have preferred Gayle or Carroll to take his place but on came Joelinton to show off his new haircut. When Willock’s shot was palmed away by McCarthy to the exact spot in the six yard box where Wilson would have been and Joelinton wasn’t, it told you all you need to know about the effect on our striking potential.
The first half was heading for a nervous end as Southampton racked up a string of corners and free kicks. Any fears of an injury time collapse were in the wrong camp though, as Lewis did very well to bring away a free kick before releasing ASM to run at the defence. The ball was bundled back to McCarthy but his appalling clearance landed at the feet of Almiron, who kept his head to run in and finish to mass relief across Tyneside.
The second half was set to be a bundle of nerves, although Shelvey could have put the game to bed seconds into the half as Willock and Joelinton linked up to put a tap in on a plate that he contrived to miss from all of five yards. This would prove costly.
Southampton brought the ball up the other end and won a free kick which was perfectly dispatched by Ward-Prowse for 3-2. Immediately from the kick off Jeff Hendrick got himself sent off by stupidly pulling Minamino’s shirt when on a booking. So instead of a three goal lead it was a one goal lead with ten men. Forty minutes of squeaky backside time.
The remainder of this game was both exhilarating and excruciating in equal measure. Adams put the ball in the net but the offside flag was once again our friend. Ings shot looked in all day, but it bounced back off the post into Darlow’s arms, it seemed a matter of time.
On a rare counter attack, Almiron took a smack in the face from Bednarek and a well-placed free kick was awarded, although the ref wasn’t as quick with the red card this time despite a VAR check to see if last man Bednarek was indeed the last man as he utilised his last man status to commit an illegal, goal denying foul. Never mind, we might snatch an unlikely one from the free kick eh? No…
Schar stepped up, as he sometimes does, in these situations despite common sense dictating that Shelvey should take it while defenders remain to defend. Instead of scoring to settling nerves, Schar thumped the ball into the knees of the wall then attempted to follow up and getting into a collision with the unpunishable Bednarek that saw him stretchered off and the best part of 20 minutes to be negotiated with nine men. Anyone who saw how 10 men affected us at Leeds, or the Leicester game last New Year’s Day, could be forgiven for giving up and switching off.
Southampton came storming forward against two lines of four defenders and zero attackers for that entire remainder. I have to say now; however you feel about Bruce, the current state of affairs or the future of the club, this was blood pumpingly, nerve-shreddingly magnificent. It is not often this season that I’ve wished a crowd could have been there, but the atmosphere at this one, would have been one that stood in the memory for years.
The decision to use our final substitution moments before Schar’s collapse was one that could have been costly, but the fact that this introduced Paul Dummett, was vital for the remainder of the match. Dummett was colossal, seemingly at the heart of everything as he made at least two goal saving headers that I counted.
Dummett was also on hand when Ings looked to have finally equalised, only for Hayden to clear off the line. It’s easy to forget that Hayden was once again out of position, as he put in the kind of towering performance we’ve just come to take for granted.
Southampton seems to run out of ideas as the potentially pertrifying six minutes of added time were negotiated with United seeming to enjoy the lion’s share of possession. When the whistle did go, I have to say I missed that guttural roar that would have reverberated in any normal season.
The standouts today for me were Almiron, who never stopped running, Willock who impressed in a scoring debut and Lewis, who has had a bumpy season but passed a fitness test to turn in one of his best performances in a Newcastle shirt.
The manner of victory was chest thumping but it needn’t have been this way. There’s no excuse for Hendrick’s stupidity, but I did feel the ref was keen to flash yellow our way, while the likes of Bednarek seems to get an easier ride. Small grumble but it could have proven costly.
With two write-offs in the next couple, hopefully the injuries will abate in time for the visit of Wolverhampton. It would be lovely if those below could lose consistently in that time but I fear we might find ourselves staring down the barrel of another Must Win. Today though there was clear evidence we may just have the fight for it.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Southampton 2 – Saturday 6 February 3pm
Willock 16, Almiron 26, 45+4, Hendrick red card 50
Minamino 30, Ward-Prowse 48
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Southampton 74% (68%) Newcastle 26% (32%)
Total shots were Southampton 14 (6) Newcastle 6 (4)
Shots on target were Southampton 5 (3) Newcastle 4 (4)
Corners were Southampton 7 (1) Newcastle 9 (0)
Referee: Craig Pawson
Darlow, Manquillo (Krafth 24), Hayden, Schar, Lewis, Hendrick, Willock, Shelvey, Almiron, Wilson (Joelinton 36), Saint-Maximin (Dummett 67)
Dubravka, Anderson, Carroll, Ritchie, Gayle, Fraser
(Steve Bruce update on three new serious injuries for Newcastle United – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Southampton 2 – Watch all the goals and incidents in official match highlights HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Southampton 2 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Southampton 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s win – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]