14/12/2013: Newcastle 1-1 Saints

Saints and Newcastle couldn't be separated in an end-to-end clash at St James' Park. The first half was interminable, but things really livened up during the final 30 minutes or so. Both sides had chances to win it, but a draw was probably fair overall.

Mauricio Pochettino used a similar setup to the one that was so effective in limiting Manchester City a week earlier. Rickie Lambert started on the right, coming in for Adam Lallana who had a slight knock. Jay Rodriguez was deployed on the left, but spent much of the first half drifting into a very central position. Dani Osvaldo played through the middle.

The first 10 minutes were very quiet. Newcastle had a few corners which came to nothing. Then on 11 minutes Calum Chambers cleared a low shot off the line after Paulo Gazzaniga had failed to collect from Yoan Gouffran's run down the right. A few moments later Saints started to get a bit of fluency going, with James Ward-Prowse firing an effort straight at Tim Krul from distance.

After that very brief spell of quality Saints reverted back to type. The visitors were ponderous on the ball. Saints did have a lot of possession, but were regularly forced backwards or sideways by an organised Newcastle side. The movement was far too static, and the supply from the support players was mostly poor. Newcastle weren't outstanding either, but probably just about deserved to be ahead at half-time. The goal arrived on 27 minutes. A free-kick near the half-way line was headed into the box. Jos Hooiveld completely missed a simple chance to clear the ball, with Gouffran nipping in to round Gazzaniga before slotting home.

Pochettino rang the changes at the break, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Adam Lallana coming on for Ward-Prowse and Osvaldo. Lambert played noticeably deeper in the second-half too. Saints were much more energetic going forward, and also more effective at linking midfield to attack. On 50 minutes Lambert dinked the ball into the penalty area, but Rodriguez couldn't quite get a foot on it.

Although there was a lot more urgency to Saints' play, most of the early openings still fell to Newcastle. They were happy to go direct and also shoot from distance. Loic Remy blasted straight at Gazzaniga from 25 yards on 55 minutes. Saints always looked dangerous on the counter, with Lallana causing problems with a series of lung-busting runs. At one point the skipper flew down the right, only to see his cutback intercepted. The impressive Steven Davis came agonisingly close with a 25 yard rocket, which cannoned back off the post. Saints wouldn't have to wait too much longer however. Another opportunity arrived from an incisive breakaway on 65. Rodriguez collected the ball on the half-way line before storming towards the edge of the penalty area. He played a quick one-two with Davis, before sending Krul the wrong way for 1-1.

The final 25 minutes were really back-and-forth. Newcastle responded well to the equaliser, with Mathieu Debuchy forcing Gazzaniga into a good save on 69. Saints had a flurry of chances a minute later. Lambert's initial shot was deflected wide. Rodriguez then went close from a corner, before the ball fell back to Lambert, who headed straight at Krul. Gazzaniga handed Remy a very easy chance with a dreadful clearance, but fortunately the Frenchman's finish was equally poor.

Gazzaniga went down with a knock towards the end of the game, and for a few moments it looked as if Saints would have to bring on fourth choice stopper Cody Cropper. The Argentinian recovered however, not before referee Mike Jones was inadvertently smacked in the face by Moussa Sissoko in what was a hilarious incident. Then Saints goalkeeping coach Toni Jiminez clashed with his opposite number Andy Woodman following a hefty Schneiderlin tackle. High up in the away end it looked as if a mass brawl was taking place, but when viewing the pictures back later it's clear that most were trying to break it up. Back on the pitch Rodriguez was played through very late, but his touch was too heavy. Both sets of fans were in decent voice by the end thanks to an exciting conclusion.

Given Newcastle's recent form and the fact that Saints had to come from behind, Pochettino should be pretty happy with the point. Things didn't quite click in the first half, but credit must go to the manager for switching things up quickly. It was far from a perfect display, but it was good enough.

Attendance: 49,164

Match Ratings

Gazzaniga: 5. Didn't always inspire confidence at the back and nearly gifted Newcastle a second goal. Made a few saves, but most were fairly routine

Chambers: 6. Often reluctant to take on his man, but decent defensively. Great goal-line clearance

Lovren: 6. Made some important blocks in what was a solid showing

Hooiveld: 5. Another disappointing display at St James' Park. Clearly at fault for the first goal. Usually played the safe option when in possession

Shaw: 6. Didn't make the impact going forward that he usually does, but a reasonable defensive display

Cork: 6. Not quite as effective in shielding the back four as he was against City, but a tidy performance nonetheless

Ward-Prowse: 5. Did ok in the first half, slightly unfortunate to come off at half-time, but changes had to be made

Davis: 8. Steady in the first half, but probably Saints' best player after the break. Showed some decent skill and expertly linked the midfield to the attack

Lambert: 6. Final ball often let him down, but usually had the right idea

Osvaldo: 5. A few moments of quality, but not involved too much

Rodriguez: 6. Took his goal well, and made a few dangerous runs throughout the game

Substitutes

Lallana: 7. Added some much needed energy and quality to Saints' attack

Schneiderlin: 6. A reasonable showing considering he was coming back from an injury

Gallagher: A well-deserved debut following recent Youth Cup heroics