24/02/2013: Newcastle 4-2 Saints

Saints came crashing back down to earth with a disappointing 4-2 defeat at Newcastle. The visitors were on the wrong end of some poor refereeing decisions, but there's no question the better side won.

Saints enjoyed their best spell inside the first 15 minutes. Mauricio Pochettino's men had a lot of possession, opening up the Newcastle back-four with some decent movement. Saints took the lead in only the 3rd minute. Jack Cork's cross to the back post was nodded on by Rickie Lambert. Morgan Schneiderlin then swivelled his body, before firing low into the corner. Saints continued to press for the next 10 minutes or so, but the home side would soon take control. The visitors sat off a powerful Newcastle side, who looked to get forward quickly, playing balls over the top of the full-backs. On 14 minutes Moussa Sissoko fired wide after out-muscling Nathaniel Clyne. A few minutes later Newcastle came even closer, with Papiss Cisse's strike flying just past the post. Saints have been renowned for their pressing under Pochettino, but it was Newcastle who were more proficient in that field on this occasion. Saints struggled to get to grips with the ball, and were on the back foot for much of the first half. The away side were caught on the counter far too often. Newcastle inevitably found a leveller on 33 minutes. Yoann Gouffran made a fine run down the left-hand side, before cutting inside. His cross was deflected into the path of Sissoko, who had a simple tap-in. It was 2-1 three minutes before the break. The goal was as brilliant as it was controversial. Clyne was fouled in the build-up, and Cisse was offside. It shouldn't have stood, but that doesn't take anything away from what was a fine strike from the Senegalese front-man. Cisse's 35 yard dipping volley was unstoppable.

Saints started the second half much better, and were soon back in the game. Rickie Lambert's 25 yard free-kick was brilliantly tipped wide by Toon keeper Rob Elliot. The Saints centre forward made no mistake a few minutes later, converting Adam Lallana's cross inside the area. Lallana was the most threatening player for the visitors in second period. He switched flanks with the ineffective Jay Rodriguez throughout the game, causing most damage down the right. Saints continued to enjoy a decent spell of possession, with Lambert heading just wide from another Lallana cross. Unfortunately the away side struggled to continue to momentum, with Newcastle soon regaining control of the match. Yoann Cabaye made it 3-2 from the spot on 67, sending Artur Boruc the wrong way. Referee Chris Foy gave the penalty for handball against Danny Fox. The ball definitely did touch the defender's hand, but it certainly wasn't deliberate. Saints did have a few half-chances following the goal, but the end product was mostly poor. Newcastle secured all three points in comical fashion. Fox's smashed his clearance straight at Hooiveld, with the ball bouncing off the defender into the back of the net.

A bit of a comedown following the euphoria of the Manchester City victory. Saints had a decent spell of play at the start of both half's, but were second best for most of the game. It was the worst performance since Pochettino took over. People will no doubt point to individual errors, but most players were well below their best. The energy and intensity that was prevalent in Pochettino's previous matches was missing this time around. As bad as Saints were, we could have easily nicked a point or even three had the referee not made so many mistakes. It's no major disaster in the grand scheme of things. Saints won't face too many tougher tests from now until the end of the season. Newcastle were very strong, having been rejuvenated by the new Ligue 1 signings. We're still well placed to stay up, so as long as we can iron out the silly defensive errors then we should be alright.

Attendance: 52,259

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Not much to say really. Could have possibly done slightly better for the first goal, but helpless for the other three

Clyne: 6. Left far too exposed at times, particularly in the first half. Made a few decent tackles, but not one of his better displays by a long shot

Yoshida: 6. Solid reading of the game

Hooiveld: 6. A bit unfortunate with the own-goal. Defensively just ok. Did well bringing the ball out of crowded areas

Shaw: 6. Made some good forward runs, but distribution slightly disappointing

Cork: 7. Superb on the ball in the early going, but faded a bit as the game wore on

Schneiderlin: 7. Slightly below his usual high standards despite the goal, but still one of Saints' better players. Passing not to the level you would expect

Rodriguez: 5. Worst performance for a while. Struggled to get involved in the game. End product largely disappointing

Davis: 6. Bright early on. Didn't really assert himself on the match after Newcastle had taken control

Lallana: 7. Took a while to get up to speed with the game, but a decent enough second half

Lambert: 7. Not really involved much in the first half after the opener, but an impressive 100th goal and a couple of other decent efforts

Substitutes:

Fox: 5. An afternoon to forget for the stand-in left-back. The clearance which lead to the Hooiveld own goal was a bit unfortunate, but at the same time preventable.

Ramirez: 6. Improved things slightly, but couldn't quite find that finishing touch

Puncheon: Damage already done by the time he came on