Who we playing? – Southampton
Where we gannin? – St Mary’s Stadium
When’s kick off? – Thursday 10 March at 19:30
No scheduled TV coverage, so it’s a dodgy stream or the good old-fashioned wireless
As Willie Nelson once sang, “We’re on the road again”, with the long trip to Southampton for the rearranged covid affected clash at St Mary’s Stadium. So begins a run of 4 away trips on the hoof, with the first three of those taking place over an 8-day period.
We head into this one brimming with confidence having dispatched Brighton on Saturday. It’s safe to say we weren’t at our best last time out, but the two early strikes from a resurgent Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schär ensured we bagged our third consecutive home win and beat a team who were in the top 10 for the first time in this campaign.
Our unbeaten run of 8 games sees us occupy second in the form table and extends the gap to the relegation trap door to 7 points with 12 games remaining. A quick calculation tells me we are now mathematically out of the title race, but CL football is still a possibility! I jest of course, but surely any fears of relegation are nigh on banished as quickly as an overcooked bacon sandwich. “How’s the bacon did you say?”
A quick glance at the Saints website tells me that they haven’t lost a home game since the 26th of September, so this game will be “nee picnic” as Oz once told us on Auf Wiedersehen Pet, for the travelling Mags. Southampton occupy 9th in the Premier League having won 8, drawn 11 and lost 8 this season. Their last 5 games have seen them pick up a tidy 10 points, but Saturday saw them hammered at Villa 4-0. I’ve watched the Saints a bit this season, and they can be as good as they can be as flaky as The Singing Detective’s scalp! (ask your fatha.)
They have some seriously dangerous players amongst their ranks. None more so than James Ward-Prowse, who’s arguably the best set piece taker in the Premier League today. Add some decent fire power in Armando Broja, Che Adams and our old boy Adam Armstrong, and they aren’t to be taken lightly. Add in Elyonoussi, Livramento and Moussa Djenpo and they are littered with talent across the pitch.
I like Ralph Hassenhüttl, despite his occasional penchant for shipping 9. He has no real world class superstars in his squad and seems happy to sell his best players to the money men. Isn’t this how the Saints have operated for the last decade? They play some lovely football at times but can also take an almighty howking in equal measures.
We may also be facing one of our own, in the guise of Adam Armstrong. “Arma” made the princely sum of 17 first team games for NUFC over a 5-year period, failing to find the onion bag once. After 4 loan spells down the leagues, we flogged him to Blackburn, where he proudly bagged a goal in every 3, earning him a move back to the PL. A quick glance at Wiki tells me that Armstrong’s played 19 times this season and has only hit the onion bag twice, so he’s not exactly pulling up trees yet. Let’s hope that continues this Thursday eh?
Back in August, we shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw at St James’, conceding a typically Lacellesesque reckless penalty in the dying embers of added time, but we were a different beast back then. We are a solid outfit who aren’t conceding many these days and are providing a significant threat going forward.
I’m going to eat the humblest of pies and say I am finally converted in my support for Joelinton, who’s arguably been our player of the season to date. He’s been an absolute beast and the heartbeat in the middle of the park. Yes, my old pal Gids, you were right all along!!
🎵 “He’s Brazilian, he only cost 40 million, and we think he’s f**kin’ brilliant, he’s Joelinton.” 🎵 – It was incredible to hear all 4 sides of St James’ Park blasting this out on Saturday! Who’d have thought that would be the case a few months ago!!!
Going back to the Brighton win, I do think we need to freshen it up a bit as I thought we were a little leggy. I’d like to see the return of ASM, Manquillo and perhaps most importantly of all, a first start for our Brazilian wonder boy, Bruno Guimarães. Bruno’s cameos so far have been superb. He’s phenomenally confident on the ball and far too calm to be a Newcastle United player!!! There was one moment on Saturday, on his own goal line that he nonchalantly beat the Brighton striker before clearing to safety. It’s safe to say I nearly soiled my budgie smugglers! We are too used to mediocrity, and I think he’ll bring an air of class to the midfield. Dropping down to the bench, for me, should be Murphy, Krafth and Shelvey. I don’t select the side of course, so whomever Wor Eddie chooses for this clash, I’ll back him.
So, I guess it’s prediction time, and the pressure is on, considering @Clark5Nick managed a rare correct score on Saturday. I’m not sure about this. I’d love to see us go there and get into them, but based on their home form, I’m plumping for a splinter in the arse 1-1 draw, with a first goal in the black and whites for Chris Wood, ensuring our unbeaten league start to 2022 continues for now…
Howay the lads and safe trip to the Mags heading down to Hampshire.
Paul Karter – @peekeekay