A fair result and ultimately a satisfactory result saw us rise temporarily at least to sixth in the league as we shared the points against a decent Saints side. With Cabaye suspended, Pardew reverted back to 4-4-2 with Shola preferred to Ben Arfa in the starting line up.
The opening quarter was relatively cagey with Southampton playing keep ball and us offering next to nothing but we had the first real chance to take the lead when a Gouffran pull back was parried back to Remy who had the goal gaping but kept his shot low only to see it cleared off the line with Anita hacking the subsequent rebound wide. We did get ahead shortly after though and Gouffran again was on hand for a poachers goal. Williamson nodded back across the box from a free kick and as the visiting defence dithered, Gouffran nipped in to round the keeper and tap in.
We got control of the game for the rest of the half without really threatening and we couldn’t muster another shot on target in the half while Saints weren’t really living up to the hype they’ve received this season.
Yet again though, we were lethargic in the second half at home and they sensed quite quickly that they could get back into the game. With the woeful and bone idle Osvaldo whipped off for Lailiana, they had more zip going forward and we were given warning of what might come when Davis set himself up well before firing a shot back off the post – it would have been a fine goal but they were level moments later from Rodriguez.
This time they broke with pace and Rodriguez timed his run to perfection, just beating the offside trap and finishing coolly past Krul. They were the more likely to go on and win it at that point but we had a golden chance to pinch the three points when their distinctly ropey looking keeper sliced a backpass straight into the path of Remy inside the 18 yard area. With the goal gaping and no defender in sight, Remy composed himself but inexplicably screwed the effort well wide. Bad miss.
Ben Arfa came on and he nearly caught the keeper unaware at the near post before the game went a bit nuts. Firstly, Sissoko appeared to catch the referee with a slap in the box – presumably accidentally but the ref went down for a couple of minutes and then a dreadful looking challenge on Haidara in front of the benches led to a free for all with both dugouts ending up in a scuffle that again took a while to calm down.
We couldn’t fashion a winner though and in the end a draw was a fair result and one that kept our momentum going. For me, we’ve had a fantastic run and in context of that, a point here against another top eight team isn’t a bad result. When you add to that two winnable games against Palace and Stoke to come then really, I don’t think you can really complain with coming out of the afternoon undefeated.
Mind, I thought we missed Cabaye. I questioned him on more than one occasion this season but we badly missed his vision and composure in the middle today and Anita is by no means a replacement for the Frenchman. I’d be worried aswell if Remy’s slight blip becomes anything more sustained as we don’t really have any more goals in us up front but hey, things are looking a lot brighter than most of us thought they would at this stage of the season so let’s accentuate the positives, eh?
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Tim Krul 6, MATTHIEU DEBUCHY 8, Mike Williamson 8, Fabricio Coloccini 7, Davide Santon 6 (Massaimo Haidara 6), Moussa Sissoko 6, Vurnon Anita 6, Chieck Tiote 6, Yoan Gouffran 7 (Haten Ben Arfa 6), Shola Ameobi 5 (Papiss Cisse 6), Loic Remy 5
Ref – Mike Jones – 7 – He was alright, his linesman was shit
Our Fans – 6 – No grumbling or owt
Their Fans – 6 – Good numbers given the trip, pretty quiet though