Story of the game
Yan Valery returned to the starting line-up for the first time in four months and for just the fourth time all season, but his error cost Southampton dear 12 minutes from time.
William Smallbone and Stuart Armstrong were injury absentees for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, but Moussa Djenepo returned after a period of a family bereavement.
There was a second consecutive start for Dwight Gayle upfront for Newcastle United, while Federico Fernandez and Jonjo Shelvey – match-winners for the Magpies in the reverse fixture – were also included.
Southampton had failed to keep back-to-back clean sheets at St. Mary’s Stadium for over three years and they had Alex McCarthy to thank early on as a stunning triple save kept the shutout alive.
Things would turn sour for the hosts just before the half-hour mark as Djenepo was booked for a late challenge on Isaac Hayden.
A rare look at the VAR monitor saw referee Graham Scott upgrade the decision to a straight red card, compounding a difficult week for Southampton’s Malian winger.
That did not go down well with the St. Mary’s faithful and VAR was about to leave them incensed once more, with Sofiane Boufal penalised after the fact for a handball in the box.
Matt Ritchie stepped up for what was bizarrely Newcastle’s first penalty of the season, but McCarthy continued his heroics with a terrific save, plunging low to his left.
The hosts began to work themselves into the contest in the second half, and Shane Long had a glorious opportunity to tee-up Danny Ings atop the six-yard box. The Irishman opted to shoot and fired wide from a tight angle after his intelligent run in behind.
But Newcastle held down the midfield with Shelvey particularly influential, and they would hit the front with just over 10 minutes to play. Allan Saint-Maximin pinched the ball from a muddled Valery at the top of the box before stroking it through McCarthy’s legs and in off the post.
Steve Bruce’s men shut up shop for the remainder of the match to secure a massive three points in their season as they surpassed Southampton on the table, opening up an eight-point gap between themselves and the bottom three in the process.
Man of the Match: Jonjo Shelvey
Instrumental in Newcastle’s comeback win against Southampton in December, Newcastle’s no.8 enjoyed another enjoyable afternoon against the Saints.
The former Liverpool and Swansea City midfielder pulled the strings in the middle of the pitch for Bruce’s side and took over the game in the second half with his excellent passing range and tenacious running between boxes.
His ability to threaten with a long diagonal pass or to find a teammate in tight spaces between the lines kept the Saints defence on the back foot and without an answer to shutting him down.
Shelvey continued a stellar week for him personally after putting pen to paper on a new contract at St. James’ Park as he looks to guide Newcastle to safety in the Premier League at the earliest possible opportunity.
Key takeaways from the game
Valery will need time
Southampton’s 21-year-old Frenchman emerged as one of the league’s brightest young stars last season but has been hampered by injuries in this campaign.
After going 14 games without a single minute in the league, Valery understandably came in lacking rhythm but showed once again why he remains a highly rated prospect at St. Mary’s.
An error of judgement in reading the bounce of the ball cost him and his team with the goal, but with the benefit of more consistent games and increased familiarity, he will undoubtedly rectify that in the future.
With nine games now remaining in the season, the priority will be returning to form and confidence and staying fit for the remainder of the campaign before attention turns to the next season, one where he will look to impress on a weekly basis once again.
It was Valery’s countryman that stole in to net the winner, just reward for a fine performance all afternoon by Newcastle’s star man.
Saint-Maximin’s energy down the left-hand side was a constant threat for the Magpies, and his direct running in behind Southampton’s defence both with and without the ball caused the hosts all kinds of problems.
Arriving in the Premier League with plenty of intrigues if nothing else, the Frenchman has continued to grow in his first season in England and is showing signs of a potentially big player.
A goal at an important time in a big game will do his confidence the world of good as well as the confidence in him shown by the fans and his manager.