You should be winning a game of football when you’re in the lead with a couple of minutes to play, yet a win was anything but what we deserved here.
Allan Saint-Maximin looked to have won it with a 90th minute strike at the Gallowgate End, yet a foul on Adam Armstrong and resultant penalty via VAR handed Southampton a share of the spoils with just about the last kick of the game.
We were well and truly outplayed and totally outthought in the first half – they should’ve had a couple and had home fans chanting “WE WANT BRUCIE OUT” – yet it was us who took the lead 10 minutes into the second 45, as Callum Wilson headed home from a Jacob Murphy knockdown.
After we then sat off and looked to protect what we had (sigh…), the hosts responded with 15 minutes to play as Elyounoussi bundled home at the back post.
Saint-Maximin looked to have won it in the 90th minute after latching onto a Ryan Fraser shot that was blocked on the line, however a reckless lunge from Jamaal Lascelles left VAR with no option but to award the Saints a spot kick with just seconds remaining.
James Ward Prowse stepped up and fired a superb penalty into the bottom left corner, giving Woodman absolutely no chance. The full-time whistle went and boos echoed around the 44,000 crowd inside St James’ Park.
Once again we sat too deep after scoring, looked unorganised throughout, tired badly and lacked any type of plan B when things weren’t going our way. With 10 shots to their 22 and just 35% possession, it was a worrying watch and not a performance deserving of all a victory, sadly.
The result leaves us in 15th in the table on one point, heading into the international break still looking for our first win of 2021/22.
Bruce made just one change to the side that lost at Aston Villa last weekend, with Sean Longstaff coming in for Isaac Hayden – who failed to shake off a knee injury in time for today’s game.
STARTING 11: Woodman – Murphy, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie – S Longstaff, Willock, Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Wilson.
SUBS: Gillespie, Clark, Joelinton, Lewis, Hendrick, Krafth, Manquillo, Fraser, Gayle.
We started brightly in the opening few minutes, passing the ball around quickly and almost breaking through on goal via a brilliant run from Joe Willock, however we soon sat deep and were struggling to get out of our own half.
Whether it was ASM losing it just as we tried to break or misplaced passes from a back five struggling to cope with Southampton’s high press, we were constantly losing the ball in bad areas.
The set up was so negative. Yes, their press made it difficult to play out at times, but we were set up with EIGHT men behind the ball – which often came straight back at us when hopeful counter attacks involving an isolated ASM and Wilson failed to develop.
Livramento was constantly free down their right-hand side and should’ve had an assist to his name just after the 20 minute mark. The ball fell for the former Chelsea talent, he fired across goal and Djenepo somehow fired over for one of the worst misses you’ll see all season.
Minutes later, Armstrong then set up the Malian with a lovely ball around the corner. Djenepo sat Lascelles down and looked set to score, only for his goal bound shot to be blocked by Fernandez.
At this point, the hosts had enjoyed almost 70% possession and looked the only side interested in winning this game, leading to a chorus of “WE WANT BRUCIE OUT” to ring around a disgruntled St James’ Park.
We were set up like a side trying to nick a point away at Old Trafford, yet this was a winless Southampton side that always give you a chance if you can get at them.
Aside from the odd fleeting counter attack and Saint-Maximin burst to win a free kick in a dangerous area, it was a pitiful first half performance, summing up Bruce’s negative tactics, our lack of ball playing defenders and a flawed system that just wasn’t working.
The half ended with a Wilson header that was beaten off the line by Alex McCarthy from Sean Longstaff’s corner – our one and only shot on target in a worryingly bad opening 45.
No changes made as we came out from the break, but we needed to push up the pitch and give the Gallowgate something to watch – and we FINALLY started to do that.
After yet another Djenepo shot whistled just wide, it was clear we were being a little more aggressive in all areas of the pitch, committing a few more bodies forward and no longer sitting off a Saints side who were by far the better side in the first 45.
Then, the breakthrough arrived, and it was that man Callum Wilson who came up with the goods.
Schar made up for an erratic first half display by picking out a brilliant cross-field pass to Jacob Murphy, who found himself in space at the back post. The marauding wing-back nodded back across goal and Callum Wilson came flying in to head home. 1-0 Newcastle!
It was vital we now didn’t sit back and give Southampton the upper hand once again, however that’s exactly what we did, with this now becoming a frustrating theme under Steve Bruce. Ok, we were no longer looking all at sea and on the verge of conceding, yet it was a negative move that brought an edgy feel back to St James’ Park.
One move that didn’t help with that anxiety is Callum Wilson’s departure. It wasn’t a sudden injury, however he was holding his thigh in the first half and seemed as though he hadn’t quite shaken off that early knock. On came Joelinton, tasked with leading the line with just over 20 minutes remaining.
The Brazilian very nearly latched onto an outstanding ball from Allan Saint-Maximin just five minutes later, with the Frenchman’s ball only just evading our £40m man.
After coming close at one end, the Saints then went down the other and made it 1-1. Redmon was given too much space to cross down the left and his cross was eventually bundled home by Elyounoussi after the winger’s first effort was saved superbly by Woodman. All level and it was hardly a major shock based on our approach after taking the lead.
Aside from the odd ASM run and a Jacob Murphy strike parried wide by McCarthy, it was no all Southampton. They were asking the questions, keeping us camped in our own half and limiting our isolated front two to the odd counter that often came to nothing.
Ryan Fraser replaced Joe Willock with 84 minutes on the clock and made an immediate impact to win us a corner, but Ritchie’s delivery was too close to the Saints goalkeeper once again.
Just as it felt like a draw or nothing as the visitors pushed for the victory, Allan Saint-Maximin popped up with what we thought was the winner.
After Joelinton was released by the Frenchman, the big Brazilian cut inside and laid the ball back to Ryan Fraser. The Scot’s shot was blocked on the line, but ASM was in position and smashed the ball past McCarthy. 2-1 to the the Toon, great celebrations in the Gallowgate and surely our first win of the season – or so we thought…
With seconds left to play, a threaded through ball found Adam Armstrong in the box and the whole of St James’ Park held their breath.
Woodman came flying out his goal and Lascelles came steaming over to stop the former NUFC striker. Our skipper looked to have made a superb last ditch tackle on first viewing, however VAR replays showed he’d taken none of the ball and plenty of Armstrong, leaving the referee with a big decision to make as he headed to the pitch side monitor.
The penalty was given and Ward-Prowse fired passed Woodman, sending Saints fans wild up in the gods.
Full-time and, sadly, we got what we deserved. It may have been yet another VAR decision that didn’t go our way, but Southampton will be coming away from this wondering how on earth they didn’t win – despite the fact they were losing with seconds to play!
Next up, a trip to Old Trafford and potential meeting with non other than Cristiano Ronaldo after the international break…