John Carver’s unimpressive reign continued with another loss against a superior Southampton side in a cold and largely dull afternoon at SJP. Williamson was, thank God, dropped to the bench with Haidara coming in it at full back and Dummett moving into the middle but that was the only change from Chelsea although our first half performance lacked the drive evident at Stamford Bridge.
A low key opening to the game saw us fall behind to the first real chance of the game after quarter of an hour and it was a poor goal to concede defensively. Pelle, a thorn in our side throughout held the ball up for Ward-Prowse and his pass put Elia through. Janmaat should have done far more to hold him off and his snap shot beat Krul low to put them ahead. Elia looked sharp all afternoon – to be honest, I’d never even heard of him before today – but we laboured badly against the two front men all afternoon and with the atmosphere flat, we feared a long afternoon ahead.
We could have been two down after some poor marking from a free kick allowed Fonte a free header which he could have done better from and it was difficult to see us fashioning a chance before we were reprieved with a comedy equaliser. An aimless ball seemed to be heading through to Forster in their net before the otherwise solid Gardos decided to slice a clearance against the oblivious Gouffran, who deflected past the helpless keeper. It was as lucky a goal as we’ve scored in years and it almost spurred us on to take the lead shortly after when Perez attempted an outrageous volley from a Cabella through ball but we went in level.
If the first half was fairly low key, the second was virtually catatonic and you always had the sense that the visitors were calmer and more composed in possession. One feature of our attacking ‘threat’ in the first half had been Sissoko powering through players but he quietened after the break and the visitors took control of the centre of the park, with youngster Reed looking impressive and our approach play increasingly featured the all too common long ball to poor Perez against two giant defenders. Elia got his second to put them back ahead with poor defending again to the fore. Another fairly hopeful ball wasn’t dealt with and Elia was gifted with a chance in front of goal which he gratefully snapped up to restore their lead.
Carver brought on Sammy and Riviere for the wretched Anita and Gouffran (who had actually been better than for most of the last 18 months) but in pushing Perez out wide, the formation barely looked any more attacking. A string of corners led to probably our best chance to equalise when Dummett glanced a free header wide from six yards out when it looked easier to score. Williamson then replaced Dummett late on and we tried to throw bodies in the box but the nearest we came was a penalty shout when the ball was fired against Fonte’s hand in the box. In real time, I didn’t think it was, seeing it again on MOTD it was nailed on but overall, we were deserving of a point at best, having barely tested the visitors goal and not for the first time at home this season. I was impressed by them – I thought Clyne was outstanding and having completely dismissed them for a European place before the game, I now think they’ve got a real chance. As for us…
Apathy, rather than anger was the overriding emotion but my main concern is exactly where we are going to scrape the 11-12 points we’ll need for survival. We’ll certainly play worse sides than the patchwork Saints team we faced today, but let’s not beat about the bush, we are collectively piss poor and look horribly short in all key areas. Our next two games against Hull and Stoke will dictate where we are going to end up this season and without at least a win from those two games, especially with the current incumbents in charge, I fear we have got a major struggle on our hands. It all has the slight air of resignation about it at SJP these days aswell, doesn’t it?
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Krul 5, Janmaat 5, Dummett 5 (Williamson n/a), Coloccini 5, HAIDARA 7, Gouffran 6 (Sammy 5), Colback 4, Anita 3 (Riviere 5), Sissoko 7, Cabella 4, Perez 5
Ref – Madley 6 – Funnily enough, I thought he was actually pretty good until about the last ten minutes when he seemed to lose the plot
Our Fans – 3 – Cold, miserable and as quiet/defeated as they have been all season
Their Fans – 5 – Credit to the ones that came. Third, though but?
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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