17/01/2015: Newcastle 1-2 Saints
Saints managed to grind out another away win at Newcastle, maintaining a place in the top three. Ronald Koeman's men weren't quite at their best, but did just enough to secure the three points.
Both of the first-half goals came against the run of play somewhat. Saints struggled to maintain possession during the opening stages of the game, with Newcastle looking a lot more composed on the ball. Yoan Gouffran had a decent early effort, shooting powerfully at Forster from distance. Saints' first meaningful attack resulted in a goal. Jose Fonte played a long ball up to Graziano Pelle. He flicked it on to James Ward-Prowse, who played a clever through ball into Eljero Elia's path. The Dutchman finished with one touch, powering his shot through Tim Krul's legs.
Newcastle lost their rhythm after the goal. The delivery from the home side was mostly poor. Saints improved a bit. Koeman's charges weren't afraid to go direct. Fonte headed over from Ward-Prowse's free-kick. Just when it looked as if Saints were taking charge of the game, Newcastle equalised in bizarre fashion. Fraser Forster hesitated when a routine through ball was played into the box. Florin Gardos tried to hook the ball away, but inadvertently kicked it against Gouffran for 1-1. The game then entered a bit of a lull. Newcastle had a few half-chances before the break. Ayoze Perez cut a shot across goal.
Saints adopted a slightly more patient approach in the second half, and enjoyed a greater share of possession as a result. The visitors looked most effective going forward when utilising the flanks, but there weren't too many chances.
On 61 Gouffran was involved again for Newcastle, heading wide from inside the box. John Carver's men were punished for that missed opportunity almost instantly. Shane Long nodded on for Elia, who expertly took the ball down before finishing off the post, via a deflection. Saints looked very comfortable after the goal, defending deep as a unit. It could have been 3-1 on 77. Pelle hit the bar from Nathaniel Clyne's cross. A minute later Harrison Reed shot straight at Krul. Newcastle didn't threaten much during the closing stages as Saints saw out yet another impressive victory. That said they did have a decent shout for a penalty turned down when Fonte appeared to handle.
As previously mentioned, Saints were fairly average for much of the match, but deserve credit for coming through with a result. Koeman has proved to be extremely adaptable this season, but particularly recently. He approaches each game slightly differently depending on the opponent. From the Everton win onwards he's got it spot on every time. That Saints were able to do it with so many important players missing tells you something about the strength of the squad right now. The chasing pack are keeping the pressure on, but there's nothing to suggest Saints are going to fall away any time soon.
Forster: 6. Once again had very little to do
Clyne: 7. Effective at both ends of the pitch
Fonte: 7. Distribution good and defensively sound
Gardos: 6. A few minor errors, but it would be harsh to blame him too much for Newcastle's goal. Made some good last ditch challenges
Bertrand: 7. Looked composed throughout
Reed: 7. A disciplined showing. Pressed well and displayed a lot of energy
Ward-Prowse: 7. Arguably Saints' best player in the first-half. Passing superb
Davis: 6. A few good attacking bursts
Tadic: 6. A few eye-catching pieces of skill, but below his best overall
Elia: 8. The match winner was an effective outlet for Saints on the break with his runs from deep. Showed great composure in front of goal
Pelle: 7. A big presence up front. Nice lay-off for the first goal
Cork: 7. Made a very good defensive contribution
Long: 6. Helped set up the second goal, but spent most of his time at the other end defending
Targett : Helped Saints see out the result by adding extra protection down the left
Newcastle - Gouffran (29)
Saints - Elia (14, 62)
Attendance - 49,307
Referee - Robert Madley
Newcastle: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Dummett (Williamson 80), Haidara, Anita (Riviere 68), Colback, Cabella, Sissoko, Gouffran (Ameobi 68), Perez
Subs not used: Woodman, Santon, Abeid, Armstrong
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Bertrand, Reed, Ward-Prowse (Cork 60), S Davis, Tadic (Long 60), Elia (Targett 82), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, McCarthy, Hesketh, Isgrove