9 man Newcastle dig deep to hold on and gain first win in six at St James Park
Newcastle United 3-2 Southampton
27 minutes with 10 men, 19 minutes with 9 men, a rearguard action to be proud of, a debut goal and a brace from Almiron gives United a first win in 6 home games.
A debut goal from Joe Willock, following by two from Almiron doesn't even begin to tell the tale of this one. A red card for Hendrick for a stupid pull of a shirt when already booked, and a horror injury for Schar when all subs had been used left Newcastle down to 9 men. But a heroic defensive performance, with saves, blocks and clearances off the line, meant that two stunning strikes for the away side, through Minamino and Ward-Prowse, would count for nothing. A win to be proud of in so many ways!
A goal on the quarter hour mark form debutant Joe Willock, after a lovely run into the box and a delicious cutback by Saint-Maximin, would give the Magpies an early lead at St James Park for the second game running. And when Saint-Maximin then found Almiron on 26 minutes, with the latter crashing the ball against Bednarek for his second own goal in two games, the Magpies were 2-0 up and flying.
But a stunner from Minamino just 4 minutes after Newcastle's second, and the withdrawal of Wilson through injury just after the half hour mark would give real concern for the Magpies.
But with the last kick of the first half Miggy Almiron seized the momentum back for Newcastle. A pass out from McCarthy didn't look horrendous, but the pace of the Paraguayan caused panic and after deflecting hurried clearance towards goal he followed up with a steely side foot finish low and beyond the keeper left hand.
Another wonderful Ward-Prowse free-kick moments into the first half, after Shelvey had just missed a sitter, should have been bad news enough. But a crazy shirt pull by an already booked Hendrick meant an early bath for the Newcastle midfield man, piling pressure on his team. And after Schar's injury on 79 things were looking grim.
But those left of the pitch defended with everything they had. Throwing EVERYTHING into what was left of the game and every challenge. Just being able to hang on with give this team such a boost. It will tell them they can achieve what they need to in the remainder of the season.
And whilst Newcastle will have to lick their wounds with defensive depth evaporating by the minute and key man Wilson hobbling off, those three points might just make all the difference.
A huge result.
A debut for Joe Willock, on loan form Arsenal, would see Almiron pushed out to the left (not his favourite position), whilst Allan Saint-Maximin would also return to the starting line up after being deemed fit enough to go from the off after his bout of COVID and a couple of substitute appearances.
Newcastle would make a competent enough start, getting the ball in the Southampton net early on through Wilson who had been played clean through only to be rightly flagged offside once the ball went dead.
Allan Saint-Maximin showing some good skill too in the early stages as he would dance into the Saints area, but his cutback from a promising position would only find a red shirt.
At the other end Southampton too would show some early promise. A long ball into Newcastle's left back position causing the black and whites some early concern, whilst only an offside flag would save an almost certain penalty for the Saints before the quarter of an hour.
The the Magpies would get their early goal. And what a moment for the young man Willock. A ball up the left would somehow be squeezed past his marker by Allan Saint-Maximin who would charge into the box before this time making no mistake in finding a striped shirt. And unmarked, Willock would do the rest with a straight forward but cool as you like side foot effort that would leave McCarthy no chance. 1-0 Newcastle United with 15 minutes gone.
Southampton perhaps should have been on level terms 8 minutes later, and but for a fine save from Darlow that would have been. Ings finding himself in acres of space on the right corner of the box but his vicious effort brilliantly saved with his feet by Darlow.
But moments later Newcastle were able to double their lead. A rather hopeful ball forward was rescued by Saint-Maximin who cooly cut back this time to Almiron. And the Paraguan rolled the ball under his left foot before firing hard and low at the Southampton goal with the unlucky Bednarek getting a deflection that would leave his keeper in no mans land once again. Unlucky for the Saint but delightful for the home side.
Newcastle should now have been cruising, but within four minutes the visitors had the deficit back to one. A decent ball to find Minamino in the left channel would leave an awful lot for the man, on loan from Liverpool, to do. But an awful lot was no problem for Minamino who would smash an unstoppable effort into the top near corner of Darlow's net. 2-1.
But on the stroke of half time, with Newcastle starting to look like the side we've seen for most of this season without the threat of Wilson up front, a seized opportunity taken and finished by Miggy. A pass out from the back by McCarthy didn't look too terrible but Almiron made it one. Seizing on loose ball as the defender tried to clear he raced forward before finishing really well beyond the reach of the keepers left hand.
The last touch of the first half and a huge one at that.
In the first minute of the second half Newcastle should have put the game to bed. Almiron again central to starting the move by winning possession high up the pitch. His flick to Saint-Maximin would then be centred to Shelvey who from 6 yards out only had to side foot home. But somehow he totally fluffed his lines and hit the ball wide.
And Newcastle would be punished massively. A free-kick for a foul by Hayden just 60 seconds later gave James Ward-Prowse a chance from a perfect distance as far as he was concerned. And, of course, the Southampton Captain made no mistake, curling a wonderful effort into Darlow's top right hand corner.
And as if that want bad enough, on 50 minutes Newcastle were down to 10 men. Referee Craig Pawson quick to pull out a yellow card after a shirt pull he initially thought was from Willock. But after protestations from the away team the culprit was correctly identified as Hendrick who had already been booked in the first half. Another yellow, a red! Whether the referee would have been quite as keen to pull our a yellow had he realised the consequences, only he will know. In any case, a cray foul and shirt pull from a player already walking a tightrope.
A massive save from Darlow on 55 minutes from a Redmond header saved his side form being hauled level as Newcastle were now under constant pressure, not being able to get out of their own half.
Southampton would come even closer in the 63rd minute as Ings strike would beat Darlow, only to cannon back off the post and into the grateful arms of the Newcastle keeper as he lay on the floor.
All Southampton now!
Adams then had the ball in the net through Adams, only for the flag to go up and deny an equaliser with Ings offside fro the initial shot.
Like things weren't bad enough, Newcastle then went down to 9 men, just as Southampton had during their 9-0 loss against Manchester United during this week. Only this time is was not for another red card, but as a result of what looked list a horror injury for Fabian Schar. Putting in a block challenge against a wall of red shirts the Newcastle player had to be carried off on a stretcher with his leg fully braced.
And with Bruce having made his final change in taking Saint-Maximin off on 67 to try and tighten tings up, he was all out of subs.
Southampton now turning the screw. What was needed were 9 heroes, and that's what we got. Every yard run, every tackle made, every block and body thrown in the way. Outstanding.
And after a first half performance that saw Newcastle United really having a go and looking a real threat going forward, perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel.
We will see.