St Mary’s Stadium
3pm, Saturday 7th March 2020
After 60 minutes of excellent FA Cup football, which was then followed by a half hour of systematic reversion to type; This Saturday will see Craig Hope’s best mate taking his Magpies to that happiest of hunting grounds, St Mary’s.
The Saints are an odd side. This season, they’ve been beasted 9-0 at home, looked absolutely nailed on for a bottom three berth and then turned it around and actually put a decent run of results together, climaxing recently in revenge at the King Power Stadium against their early season abusers.
They’ve got a few decent players and most importantly, Danny Ings up top gives them a cutting edge. He has plundered fifteen goals from twenty eight played in all competitions this season. A battle hardened Premiership striker, he was excellent business at an initial £18M. Actually, he’d have been a superb addition for Newcastle. Imagine having him and Rondón to call on? You’d have experience and goals instead of Brazilian bewilderment from JoeShinton. You’d also be £4M better off into the bargain.
Unfortunately, this type of obvious planning is alien to the thick headed clods who ‘run’ our club.
Our hosts’ most recent results have been a bit of a mixed bag. They suffered a 4-0 howking at Anfield and lost 2-1 at home to Burnley whilst also exiting the FA Cup with a narrow 3-2 reverse away at Tottenham. Their last two results have however been much more positive, as they overturned Villa 2-0 at home and West Ham 3-1 away in the League. They’ll start the match this weekend two points better off than their visitors and will probably feel that a win will put them one foot into safety.
As mentioned earlier, United will travel with some buoyancy, following the successful navigation of West Brom at the Hawthorns. I say ‘some’ as having played very well to get three up in the tie, perplexing substitutions and a fragility of confidence saw us hanging on at the end to record a 3-2 win.
It will be interesting to see how Bruce sets us up, having recently reverted to a flat back four in the Premiership. I would imagine that he’d be delighted with a point from this tricky looking fixture, and will revert to five at the back, but who knows with wor Steve?
It was a joy to watch St Max and Almirón on Tuesday. I reckon Alain has the makings of an absolutely top class player. I know that his end product can be questionable, but his talent is there for all to see. His Paraguayan pal usually frustrates much more than he succeeds but the way he took both goals at the Hawthorns gave us all a timely reminder of how good he can be. Hopefully, both will be fit and can carry this form with them to the South Coast.
The bookies however, have the home side as pretty warm favourites and it’s hard to argue with that. History is certainly not kind when contemplating this fixture. A Steven Carr thunderbolt saw our last League victory down there sixteen years ago, and the previous successful Magpie moment was when I was one! SuperMac scored the winning pen in a 2-1 victory that day in 1972 and our hosts had a ‘wing half’ in their team. I honestly don’t even know what one of them is.
Sorry, I’m often prone to circumlocution at prediction time. I always want to say we’ll win, but rarely get the opportunity. So, here goes…. I think we’ve got an outside chance of a point, but I’m going to go for a narrow home win on Saturday. I reckon it’ll be 2-1 and I would imagine that sleeve tattooed Danny will figure heavily in our demise. It’d be nice to wrong. Again.