On the day of the Grand National Newcastle United once again fell at the first, only this time everyone had their money on just that.
What looked like a tricky tie on paper was to be made impossible by an early Southampton onslaught and by more than half of the Newcastle team turning up for the game at all.
After the game Ronald Koeman stuck the knife in pretty much confirming what most of us already know. “It’s all about how you start the game” he stated. Pointing out in a couple of interviews that he knew his side really only needed to go after us and we’d not cope.
Quite frankly Newcastle were awful from the off, and as is the hosts needed any encouragement, or us a future blow to whatever confidence is left in that dressing room, it took Southampton only 4 minutes to score the first goal.
One simple run by Long, who just loves to play against us, left Taylor all in a flap with some Sunday League school boy defending ending up with him facing the wrong way as Long simply walked into the box and slotted home.
We’d love to tell you that Newcastle were jolted into action. We’d love to, but we can’t.
The rest of the first half was pretty much more of the same, and when Janmaat got himself tied in knots trying to cut out an attack on 34 mins that ended in Pelle scoring, and injuring himself in the process, it was no more than the hosts deserved.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Janmaat (de Jong), Taylor (Lascelles), Mbemba, Anita, Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Townsend, Perez (Cisse), Mitrovic
Rafa started with two up front and had obviously opted for the experience of Taylor at the back rather than starting with Lascelles. Both decisions backfired as Taylor had an absolute shocker from he start and was dragged off at half time, whilst our lack of numbers and a genuine holder playing in midfield led to wave upon wave of Southampton pressure.
As for those on the pitch, only really Townsend, de Jong (on for the injured Janmaat), Lascelles (on for the pathetic Taylor) and perhaps Darlow can hold their heads up with any sense of pride. The rest were awful, and in a few cases a disgrace to the black and white shirt.
Rafa said after the game that he’d never been as angry in a dressing room at half time, he also said the he felt the players seemed scared to play until they were losing. A sad inditement of the character of the players and our recruitment policy.
Despite an improvement in the second half it would be Southampton who would again hit the net next with Mane exposing our left side weaknesses once more and setting up Wanyama for Southampton’s third of the day.
At that point it did seem like a case of how many the hosts would get, but either due to them relaxing or, as Rafa said, our lads starting to play, it was Newcastle who would grab the 4th and final goal of the game.
After going close moments before, the Newcastle goal would come from Townsend who would score a cracking strike, cutting in from the right flank (as he does) and unleashing an unstoppable shot into the keepers top right hand corner. Ex Mag Forster didn’t even bother diving for it the strike was so sweet.
That was that however for this game and any thought of a fightback soon fizzled out, sending the traveling Toon fans back home empty handed for the 9th away game in a row, our worst away run since 1977.
Final whistle news of a Palace win at home to Norwich means it really is a 3 horse race for one place of safety between Norwich, Sunderland (who play Leicester Sunday) and us. However, even the most optimistic Newcastle fan surely can’t see any way back from this now.
That, as they say, has to be that!