Updated: Apr 15
An away game against a Southampton side who’s form has tailed off a little over recent weeks offered the chance for Bruce’s men to improve their recent terrible league form.
Having seen the Saints leapfrog his Newcastle after a run of good run of results in January, Steve Bruce was looking for his side to score their first league goal in 5 games.
Bruce made a number of changes, most notably dropping Joelinton and replacing him with Gayle in the hunt for that illusive goal. There was also no starting place for Lazaro who had impressed mid-week against West Brom, whist Matty Longstaff didn’t event make the squad with Bruce allegedly telling the young Geordie that he wouldn’t be considered for selection again until his contract situation had been resolved.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Manquillo (Lazaro, 71), Fernandez, Lascelles, Rose, Hayden (Longstaff, 79), Shelvey, Ritchie (Joelinton, 61), Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Gayle
Inside 10 minutes and United should have been ahead A long ball up the Newcastle right allowed Shelvey to cut back inside his man and cross to Gayle. The diminutive striker, with only the keeper to beat, could only hit Southampton keeper McCarthy from point blank range. To make things worse the ball dropped to Almiron who also only had the keeper to beat but also fired straight down the keepers throat and then a third time but from a much tighter angel. How Newcastle had failed to score there is beyond us!
At the other end a United has Manquillo to thank for some great defensive work, before Long fired a cross shot wide with Southampton players unable to connect in the 6 yard box.
End to end stuff…
A huge moment just before the 30 minute. Graham Scott had initially given Djenepo a yellow card for what was a clumsy foul on Isaac Hayden. On looking at the replays however, the VAR official asked the referee to look at the pitch side monitor and after a review the card was upgraded to a red. Djenepo clearly stamping on Hayden’s ankle, with the slo-mo making it look 10 times worse.
Moments after the sending off and United should have been ahead after another glorious chance was wasted. Shelvey again the creator with a perfect cross, Gayle totally unmarked could only head straight at the keeper again.
Give it another 3 minutes and Gayle missed his third HUGE opportunity. This time Saint-Maximin with some delightful skill down the left and putting it on a plate for Gayle who this time poked it wide.
Should be a hattrick!
Newcastle United did then put the ball in the back of the net. Lascelles with a cracking volley from a whipped free kick but the linesman and VAR both agreed United’s captain was the width of an arm off-side.
Could the Magpies find a way through?
After a clearance from a Newcastle corner there would be yet more drama. Again in the favour of Newcastle. Another VAR check and this time the referee was guided to point to the spot. Boufal inexplicably offering out his arm to clear the ball on the edge of his own area with no danger in sight.
A first penalty of the season for Newcastle, the last missed by Ritchie and with Newcastle having missed 3 of their last 4.
You can make it 4 missed out of 5. Ritchie hitting a decent spot kick to be fair to him, but McCarthy equal to it with a brilliant save at the foot of his left hand post.
You couldn't make it up!
Into the second half and Newcastle continued to now dominate the game, as you’d expect against 10 men.
Unlike the first half however the visitors were finding it difficult to create a clear cut chances with the Saints now compact and disciplined in their defence and looking to hit the Magpies on the break.
It would take 20 minutes for the first really opening for United with Saint-Maximin played through in the right channel but Bertrand did brilliantly to get in a last ditch challenge before the Frenchman could pull the trigger.
Finally, after 7 hours of football a long ball over the top from substitute Sean Longstaff put Valery in all sorts of trouble when he should have dealt with it comfortably. Credit Saint-Maximin who chased the ball down and finished delightfully to break Newcastle's goal drought. More limbs to the travelling hoards!
7 minutes for the 11 men of Newcastle to 'hang on' to what would be a precious 3 points.
And there were no real worries in truth for Bruce's men as they somehow managed to find a way to complete their second Premier League double over Southampton and move back above them in the table.
A HUGE result.