Wow, what have we just witnessed?!
That was one of the most gutsy Newcastle performances we have seen in the Mike Ashley era. A game that had everything and showcased what this squad is capable of at both ends of the pitch! Take a bow, lads!
NINE man Newcastle dug in to defy the odds and hold off Southampton to fire us 11 points clear of safety (before Fulham’s 5.30pm clash with West Ham) and hand our whole fanbase a MASSIVE sigh of relief.
Debutant Joe Willock opened the scoring on 15 minutes before a Jan Bednarek own goal doubled our lead. Southampton’s own new boy Minamino pulled one back for the Saint’s before Almiron restored our two-goal cushion before the break.
Saints’ skipper James Ward-Prowse clawed one back for the visitors before a braindead moment from Jeff Hendrick reduced ourselves to 10-men.
Fabian Schar was stretchered off with 15 minutes to go, leaving us with just EIGHT outfield players, but Steve Bruce’s side showed nerves of steel and the heart of a lion to cling on for the victory.
There was further doom and gloom for Steve Bruce as Javi Manquillo and Callum Wilson were also forced off due to injury in the first half, with the treatment table starting to pile up with each passing week.
The opener arrived early when Schar weighted a beautiful pass over the Saints backline to Saint-Maximin. The winger charged towards the away goal and picked out new-boy Willock, who slotted home with ease from point-blank range.
The first of our injury woes came not long after when Manquillo hobbled off, with like-for-like replacement Emile Krafth coming on.
Karl Darlow was soon called into action twice in a matter of minutes, both times to deny danger man Danny Ings – a sharp reminder of the threat the visitors still posed.
Our nerves were soon eased, albeit momentarily, when a wicked deflection helped put us two-nil up. Once again Schar managed to find Saint-Maximin from deep, with the trickster this time teeing off Almiron. The Paraguayan’s vicious shot took a huge touch off Jan Bednarek to hand us a healthy cushion and very much in control.
It is never straightforward with Newcastle United, as we saw on the half-hour mark when our lead was sliced in half by a bullet from Minamino. Southampton’s new boy, on loan from Liverpool, killed Hayden and Krafth dead with one touch before rifling past Darlow with another.
More misery came when top goalscorer Callum Wilson was forced to limp off for the goal-shy Joelinton. This one certainly did not feel like an equal replacement, as the tone of the game began to change with Newcastle seemingly looking forward to the break.
However, against the run of play, we managed to restore our two-goal advantage. Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy’s wayward pass was intercepted by Almiron, who pounced on the mistake and tucked home to relieve the pressure on us at half-time.
It was a disastrous start to the second half as, within five minutes, we found our lead sliced in two yet again and a man sent off!
Saints’ skipper James Ward-Prowse found the top corner from a 30-yard pearler to kickstart a catalogue of chaos from our point of view. Seconds later, Hendrick stupidly pulled back Minamino’s shirt to give Craig Pawson no choice but to send him down the tunnel.
Hendrick badly let our side down here, with his idiotic decision making reminiscent of Ryan Fraser against Sheffield United last month.
Southampton swiftly took control of the game and begun an immediate onslaught on Darlow’s goal. Ings rattled the post and Che Adam’s thought he had equalised until the linesman’s flag went up.
Our challenge became even mightier whenFabian Schar was stretchered off following a thunderous collision with the Southampton wall after his free-kick was blocked. For the remaining 15 minutes, we had to endure a never-ending assault with just NINE men on the field.
Torrential rain made the St James’ Park pitch the worst it has been for decades, and if we were going to get a result some unlikely players would need to step up with some huge performances.
Every player remaining dug in deep, and a special mention must go to Joelinton, who had to fill in at right-wing back and worked his socks off to help see out the victory.
Willock promised in his first interview that he would score goals and fight for the NUFC cause, and he did exactly that in his debut when our club needed it most. For being just 21-years old, the youngster put in a display way beyond his years and a few more like that will certainly endear him to the Toon Army faithful.
Bodies, blocks, blood, sweat and tears from every surviving Newcastle player went into keeping the Saints at bay. Dummett, Hayden and Almiron ran their lungs into the ground to ensure a colossal home win, our first since December 12 against West Brom.
THAT is what a NUFC performance is all about. Fight, determination, teamwork and pride. Putting your body on the line for the cause and playing for the name on the front of the shirt – not the back.
This massive win takes us 11 points clear from the bottom three and although we all might be a nervous mess after that 90 minutes, once the emotions subside, we can all breathe a lot easier when looking at the Premier League table.
Let’s hope Fulham lose in the 5.30pm kick off and injuries to Wilson, Schar and Manquillo aren’t as serious as they look.
Howay the lads!