Match report from Norman Riley at St Mary’s in the away end. 

Southampton 1 Newcastle United 2, St Mary’s Stadium, Premier League, 10/Mar/22, KO: 19:30. Att: N/K 

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to forget what it’s like to lose. This Newcastle United side are so confident, so well organised and have so much self-belief that right now I feel like we’ll go unbeaten until the end of the season. In fact, I get the impression that the manager, coaching staff and players will be furious with themselves if they lose a game such is their current level of competitiveness.

And no one wants to see a furious Jason Tindall.

What a superb victory at St Mary’s. To go a goal behind against a top ten side (they might not finish there, but still) who have lost only once at home all season and come back to win is something is nothing short of sensational. I do not believe it is an exaggeration to use that word.

Just think of how we were in the Premier League for all those years with Mike Ashley as owner and those with Souness in charge prior. Other than the mad anomaly of 2011/12 we have been absolutely atrocious when going a goal down away to half decent side. Away to any side, really. The default for me has always been ‘we’ll be lucky to get something now’. My heart had stopped sinking as it was already scraping the sea floor after so many years of zero expectations.

Yet within 4 months I’ve gone from that to fully expecting us to come back and get something even if we fall behind. The job Howe and his team have done to instil a winning never-say-die mentality is beyond comprehension.

The whole day for this rearranged fixture was joyous. A gang of us met around 1600 in Southampton and headed to the Alex and Black Phoenix pubs for a few jars and a bit scran. The latter pub, if you’re ever in Southampton, is a must. Plastered with gig flyers, loud music and cracking beer. Highly recommended.

I think every single one of us predicted a victory and that did not change when seeing the team announced. While it was surprising to see Joelinton and ASM missing, the confidence is such in these players that there’s no more looking at the line-ups and saying ‘aaah FFS not [insert player name here]. We’re missing arguably our best three players in Wilson, ASM and Trippier (although, yi kna, The Tower of Power AKA Big Dan Burn) and our most in-form player in Joelinton, yet still…supreme confidence reigned.

The atmosphere on arriving in the away end was up there with the best I’ve been in for a while (and that’s saying something). A boisterous, happy fanbase looking forward to seeing their team compete. Knowing their team would compete. It’s almost surreal…other worldly at the minute.

The early stages were decent enough. They probably had the upper hand as we were hemmed in a bit by their high pressing. The goal was a poor one to concede but again, as like against Everton and West Ham, there was zero panic on the pitch or in the away end. We knew we’d score.

And when the goal came it was a belter. Shelvey, who’s mistake earlier led to the attack from which the Saints scored, put in a cross of beautiful accuracy which Chris Wood bulleted into the net. The away end went off. Fans not only delighted at equalising but also ecstatic for Wood who got his first goal for the Club. Wood has been integral to out upturn in form and to see him get his first goal for the Club was a special moment.

Another matter worth noting is that each time we have gone a goal behind during this nine game unbeaten run, we’ve equalised within 12 minutes. That’s a team who gets angry at conceding and gets straight back into it. No heads dropping and a desire to get it sorted immediately. Adams hit the bar not long after but that was about it for the rest of the half from the hosts.

United started the second half showing Southampton a little less respect than they did in the first and got into the Saints from the off. Matty Targett’s in-swinging corner (GOD I LOVE IN-SWINGING CORNERS) was nodded down at the far post by TOPBDB. What happened next was indescribable, but I’ll give it a go.

From the vantage point I had all I saw was the ball hit the net. I was then convinced it had been prodded in by Fab Schar. Then I noticed it was Bruno…once the absolute carnage calmed down I had to watch a highlight of the goal on my mate’s mobile…dear me, the Brazilian had only gone and back-heel volleyed it into the net. An outrageous goal and a second scored by a player who hadn’t yet signed when the game back in December was cancelled. Ralph must have been popping a vessel.

From then on in Eddie’s Mags more or less controlled the game. The Saints brought Djenepo on and he started to cause a few worries. However, two outstanding Dubravka saves along with a spectacular last-ditch Joe Willock block ensured that the lead was maintained. The final whistle went after 7 minutes (I had my timer on my watch going) of injury-time and Willock collapsed to the floor with exhaustion.

The noise from the away end when the players and staff came over was deafening. The love from stands to pitch is so thick you can feel it. Every single one of them was fantastic and relegation is not even an issue anymore. The way we are playing at the minute means I am only looking at who we can catch, not who might catch us. Chelsea away this Sunday holds no fear. Eddie’s Mags – refuse to lose.

HOWAY!

Norman Riley – @NormanGRiley