Newcastle United 2-1 Southampton
Outplayed but never outfought, that seems to be the way of things right now at Newcastle United.
Before the season kicked off Bruce had said he’d be looking to change the brand of football at St James Park. But after 16 games Steve Bruce either cannot effect the change or does not have the players to play the style he’d promised. Instead United continue to build on the foundations put in place by his predecessor whilst unleashing the flair at the other end of the park in Saint-Maximin and the brute force of the returning Andy Carroll.
Today’s game was just another chip off that block, with Carroll in particular proving the difference.
His introduction on 59 minutes was a game changer. At this point the team were 1-0 down after Ings had raced clear on 52 minutes to fire home. Carroll caused the visitors no end of issues however, and it was his brilliant cross that allowed Shelvey to head home and equalise on 68 minutes.
The game looked to be petering out as a draw until a late strike from another substitute, Sean Longstaff, dipped viciously in front of McCarthy who could only palm the ball back into play and into the path of the onrushing Fernandez who sealed all three points for Newcastle with just 3 minutes left.
The football may have not been the free flowing beautiful style served up in the red half of Liverpool or the blue half of Manchester, but it is effective. Indeed this week has now yielded 7 points from three games, one that started against that very Manchester team after a pulsating 2-2 draw and followed up with wins against Sheffield United and now this.
10th and just two points behind Manchester United in 5th. Hold on, my nose is bleeding!
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark (Schar, 45), Dummett, Willems, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron (Longstaff, 85), Saint-Maximin, Joelinton (Carroll, 59)
United had started terribly and it didn’t get much better for much of the first half. Outplayed form the start they had Dubravka to thank for not going in at half time at least two behind.
Nathan Redmond was the culprit in chief for the visitors, firing straight at Dubravka when well placed, he was also denied again by the Newcastle stopper who saved spectacularly.
The deadlock wouldn’t be broken until the second half. And it took no more than one long ball to turn United, allowing Ings to race clear and avoid the challenge of Fernandez to finish smartly past Dubravka.
In fact the goal came against the run of play in the second half. Whatever had been said at half time certainly had made a difference before that goal went in. The problem continued to be the lack of a cutting edge however, and once Southampton had scored there was always going to be even less space for Newcastle’s speed merchants.
Enter the battering-ram. The change in game plan was there for all to see as the balls were sent in higher and longer than earlier in the game, aimed at the head of the Newcastle and England forward.
It’s easy to forget, however, that Carroll is more than just a lump. And when a deep cross toward the Newcastle number 7 was partially cleared towards the corner flag, Carroll showed his class by delivering a wonderful curling centre straight onto the the head of a rising Shelvey on the opposite back stick. Shelvey obliged with the rarest of things in the form of his own headed goal, similar to that of Saint-Maximin during the week.
As the game ticked on to the final few minutes it looked for all the world that Southampton would snatch all three points when a lovely cross from Shane Long was met by an unmarked Ryan Bertrand who inexplicably headed high, wide and not very handsome.
Up at the other end there would be a winner however. A concerted period of pressure ended with Southampton clearing the ball to the edge of the box allowing Newcastle to work the ball to Sean Longstaff. His fierce drive would only be partially saved however allowing a delighted Fernandez to rush in and smash the ball home.
The win means Newcastle are now undefeated at home since the first home game of the season, against Arsenal.
A crowd of just 42,303, the lowest of the season, just seems to reinforce the feeling that irrespective of results, the feeling is so strong against the owner that some just refuse to return during his tenure.
For Shelvey, it is now has 6 goals in his last 12 games, with 3 in his last 3 as he continues his golden run of form since his return to the starting line up.
The only real down points would be another couple of injuries. And whilst Clark will be a miss after his recent performances, United are blessed in this area at least. More of a concern would be Saint-Maximin limping off just before the end and Bruce’s admission after the game that he was ‘kicking himself’ for playing him again when tired after what is possibly as serious injury. The played leaving the ground on crutches and heading for scans in the coming days.
We can only hope the injury isn’t too bad.
Dare we look up rather than down yet? Naaa, let’s not get carried away!
YOUTUBE clip courtesy of nufc.co.uk