It was a funny old business sitting amongst the Southampton fans – Southampton 0 Newcastle 1
Southampton away. The longest trek of the season for Newcastle fans, or as I call it – my local match.
For me the drive to Southampton is only an hour and a half if the wind is blowing favourably. It’s the game I have attended more than any other and, until last season, it is a fixture I have experienced nothing but misery in.
Just two Premier League wins for Newcastle down in Southampton before Eddie Howe came along. I wasn’t at either of them. All I’d seen was a string of losses and the odd draw.
Since Howe came it’s three in three, in all comps, down on the South Coast. I’ve been fortunate enough to be at all of them. For the last pair, however, I’ve had to do so from the home end.
When the editor asked me to write a match report for the game I consented, unaware of what a terrible view I was going to have of proceedings.
The walk to the stadium is always interesting when enveloped in an opposing fanbase. I love listening in to what others think of us.
One bloke was reliably informing his companion that there are loads of Newcastle fans outside Newcastle and they all support us because we beat Barcelona once. Not sure who replied to his survey…but I certainly wasn’t consulted on this. He also told his mate that Geordies never come down for these games, they only do away games in the north. According to him, what the season ticket holders do is sell their ticket to a pal down south and then get the points. Sure, this goes on, but to make such a sweeping statement about all Geordies based on… well, based on nothing… is bizarre. I wanted to correct him on both of his misguided statements but didn’t want to attract any interest as I was supposed to be blending in.
My seat was Itchen Stand Block 11, Row A. To the layman, that is right in the corner at the bleeding front. From my vantage point (or is that disadvantage point?) it was difficult to make out much beyond what was happening on the left flank of the half Newcastle attacked in the first 45 minutes. Even this was regularly obscured by substitutes warming up. My seat was so undesirable that the only other people on my row were a woman that looked like Anne Widdecombe and didn’t appear to know where she was and a couple of paramedics. Other than that, there were four spare seats.
And that Southampton fan was saying the Newcastle fans don’t travel… Southampton fans couldn’t even travel inside their own town to sell out a home semi-final.
It was a funny old business sitting amongst the Southampton fans (as it always is with any opposition fanbase, when I have been forced to take this route to watch Newcastle).
For one, you can’t sing, which takes a lot of the enjoyment out of it.
Secondly, you can’t show your true emotions. I almost jumped out of my seat when Joelinton scored the disallowed goal.
And thirdly, I’m in a constant battle to not disagree with the inane comments of those around me.
I could hear two chaps a few rows behind me waffling on all game. Like most of their peers they weren’t singing anything beyond the quarter speed, coma-inducing When The Saints Go Marching In. All they did was chat about the match.
Which is fine, but when they’re slating your players, it’s hard not to butt in.
‘Nick Pope’s rubbish with his feet.’
Granted, he’s not the best distributor but I like my goalkeepers keeping their goal and he’s exceptional at that.
‘Willock’s just an Arsenal reject.’
But he would still get into your team in a heartbeat.
‘Longstaff’s just a sh.t McTominay’
See Willock comment. I wouldn’t swap any of your first team for any of ours.
When Joelinton scored the winner one of them legitimately said. ‘Look at him, riling up their fans. Pathetic.’
You mean celebrating? Alright, I know your team don’t get a chance to do it much but surely you understand what celebrating looks like?
Anyway, back to the game and what I could see of it. Which wasn’t a right lot. At times in the second half it was like watching a spot the ball competition, but the likes of Joelinton, Willock and Longstaff were regularly helping me out by launching it as high into the air as possible.
In the first half everything Newcastle was down my end, so I watched on as Willock blazed the ball over from just outside the eighteen-yard box and then just outside the six yard box. Someone in the top row must have been doing something to really annoy him.
I had a front row seat, literally, when Joelinton powered the ball home after some pinball in the box, I failed to see why it was disallowed. I’ve since watched it on TV… and still fail to see why it was disallowed. On the angles I’ve seen I can’t see it clip his arm but maybe I’m just viewing it through my bias-tinted glasses.
I could just about make out Pope saving Southampton’s only shot on target of the first half.
Just before half time I had a look around to see if there were any other spare seats with better views. There were a few but maybe I was suffering a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as I opted to retain my awful position.
Before the whistle went there was time for a bit of drama. A giant orange flash came flying out of our box and headed the ball clear whilst slamming into Djenepo to howls of derision from the fans around me. Apparently, that was a sending off according to some. As if anyone would have claimed that had it been a defender making the challenge. It was a fair attempt at the ball.
Unfortunately for Djenepo, with the size difference, it was the equivalent of me ploughing into my 8-year-old.
Djenepo went off. I stretched my legs at half time and then came back for another 45 minutes of stretching my neck.
It was hard to identify what was going on in the second half so I have re-watched the entire game on TV.
Longstaff must have accidentally put Willock’s boots on during half time as he smashed the back straight into the stratosphere with our first chance after the break.
Southampton actually played a bit of football in the second half. The fact that one of their brightest players was a lad that only played a handful of games for us says it all though.
Joelinton’s miss was obscured by fourteen players, a referee, two ball boys, six substitutes and a partridge in a pear tree, when I watched it live. On the rewatch I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I heard my mates a few rows up saying that it would be on the miss of the season reel, but I think he’s being unfair. It’ll make the miss of the century reel for sure. It’s his worst effort at goal since he kicked the ball in his own face last season.
Almiron was providing constant danger and having teed up Joelinton had a cross / shot parried into the path of Botman who could only direct the ball into the side netting.
Our team is so solid at the back and so dominant, that when opposing players do get chances they more often than not panic. Southampton did create one big chance though as their new boy Alcaraz released Che Adams through on goal. Adams only had Pope to beat, or should I say, Adams had Pope to beat. This is something few players have achieved this season and Adams didn’t join the list. Whilst the fans around me applauded the move, I applauded Pope’s intervention.
Eddie Howe made his first two changes of the match, bringing on the only quality Saint in the stadium alongside Isak.
The changes made the difference and Isak turned his man with ease, broke into the box and squared it to Joelinton who managed to just about keep it down from four yards out. Fair play to him for making the run from deep and not shying away after his previous shocker.
Within seconds Southampton were level through one of our own. Adam Armstrong with the equaliser. But wait. A VAR check ensued and Armstrong was adjudged to have handled the ball. The replay was shown on the big screen, which is unusual, as controversial decisions aren’t normally shown in the grounds. Fans around me were screaming ‘where’s the hand, where’s the hand?’ Having watched it back, I can confirm the hand was on the end of his wrist and clearly nudged the ball onto Burn’s knee and into the goal.
I had done a terrible job of blending in when Armstrong had scored. Whilst everyone around me surged forward punching the air and cheering, I stayed motionless in my seat and cursed under my breath.
After that it there were more flashes of yellow than a Simpsons episode. Lyanco randomly shoved Bruno whilst he was on the ground and ASM retaliated, pushing him too before a load of players charged in.
A slaloming run from ASM was stopped unfairly by Caleta-Car. A second yellow saw him off, Bruno also receiving a booking for getting involved. Jacob Murphy is a Newcastle fan and he reacted like many in the stands would have, waving the hapless Saints player off the pitch. It was a moment of comical glory but won’t have endeared him to the opposition. He’s a 5/6 out of 10 player most weeks but he gets a 9 from me for that alone this time. It would be a 10 but he lashed a good chance wide in added time.
Isak went round the keeper in the final minute but the angle was tight and he hit the side netting. Salisu got his name into the heavily scribbled referee’s book and caused a final tussle at the death.
And that was that. Three and a half stands quickly emptied but the Newcastle fans remained behind. Choruses of ‘tell me ma, me ma’ rang around. I stayed and watched the players and fans applauding each other. After the match I managed to merge into the departing Newcastle fans and I can confirm that Geordies do travel outside of the north. Mine was the only southern accent I heard amongst the throngs as we chanted and sang whilst marching away from yet another vanquished foe.
I spoke to my Southampton supporting friend this morning and he said that he thought his team played well. I told him they had about twenty minutes of decent play but other than that looked poor. He said that they may not have looked good to Newcastle fans but by their standards it was a good performance. If that’s true, they are doomed. He also informed me he detests Bruno and Murphy now. Don’t worry, he also hates Che Adams, Jan Bednarek and Nathan Jones.
Some general musings:
We could have won this three or four nil on another day. Our midfielders are spurning quality opportunities and Callum Wilson is struggling to return to his pre-World Cup form. We’ve got competition for Wilson now so I think we should use it. I have full faith in him but it’s been a long time since his last goal so I would stick Isak up front for the home leg. Wilson has a great record against West Ham so bring him back in for that.
It’s heavily reported we are trying to sign Anthony Gordon. Will that mean we look to sell ASM? I really hope not.
In the last few cameos, I think we’ve seen not only flashes of the ASM of old but also a taste of an evolving character. He’s been closing down more, showing passion and even chucked in a slide tackle a few games ago. Let’s get him starting on one of the wings. This team has been brilliant but we have lacked a cutting edge so often since Boxing Day. Let’s shake it up a bit, give others a chance and keep some of the regulars on their toes.
Fans born this century may believe that Wembley is a mythical stadium (apart from the odd Tottenham away match…). A place of legend where no Geordie shall ever tread. Well, we’ve got one foot in the final now. If we get there, we’ll have a lot of disappointed fans that can’t get tickets. We can’t even meet the demand for our home stadium.
I had a look on a ticket reselling website earlier. If you want to buy a ticket now for the Forest/Man Yoo end, you can pick up tickets for as ‘little’ as £563. For the Saints/Toon end, prices start at £2,250! I don’t think it’s our pals in red and white driving that price up.
All in all, my trip down South was extremely pleasant apart from the pitiful view, the biting cold and the fog strewn drive home. Still, all worth it to see us win our first semi final match this century.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Southampton 0 Newcastle 1 – Tuesday 24 January 8pm
Caleta-Car Red Card 86
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Southampton 44% (40%) Newcastle 56% (60%)
Total shots were Southampton 13 (3) Newcastle 15 (6)
Shots on target were Southampton 3 (1) Newcastle 3 (2)
Corners were Southampton 4 (2) Newcastle 1 (1)
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Longstaff, Willock (Saint-Maximin 67), Almiron (Murphy 78), Joelinton, Wilson (Isak 67)
Darlow, Lascelles, Ritchie, Manquillo, Lewis, Anderson
(3 Positives and 3 Negatives to take from Southampton 0 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport comments from ‘neutrals’ – Very interesting on Newcastle United post-Southampton match – Read HERE)
(Southampton 0 Newcastle 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Southampton 0 Newcastle 1 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)
(Halfway to Wembley – Southampton 0 Newcastle 1 – Read HERE)
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