Saints climbed out of the bottom three, with a convincing 2-0 win over Newcastle. The score-line flattered Alan Pardew's men, who were lucky not to lose by a greater margin. Saints were superior in every department, dominating from start to finish.
Nigel Adkins named the same team for the third consecutive game. Saints made an extremely bright start, signalling their intent by pouring forward from kick-off. Adam Lallana won a corner inside the opening minute, the first in a series of set-pieces. Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jason Puncheon and Gaston Ramirez combined brilliantly in the first half. The movement and speed of thought from the home team was superb. Ramirez was at the heart of most attacking moves, using his trickery to weave past the Newcastle defence. Both he and Lambert dropped very deep to receive the ball, leaving Saints with no real out-and-out centre-forward. This allowed the home team almost complete control of the football in the first half. Newcastle moved the ball about ok, but struggled to create many openings against a well marshalled defence. Papiss Cisse was nearly let in when Paulo Gazzaniga took too long to clear a Luke Shaw pass, but apart from that the Magpies rarely threatened.
Saints impressed throughout the first half, with a great display of attacking football. Ramirez came close to opening the scoring, testing Tim Krul with a well-struck free-kick. Moments later it was Lambert's turn to test the Newcastle keeper from a set-piece. He came even closer, striking the top of the crossbar. Jason Puncheon looked certain to score when he got on the end of Lambert's cutback in the middle of the box, only for Krul to claw the ball away. The goal finally arrived on 35 minutes. Nathaniel Clyne picked the ball up from out-wide, before attempting to chip Krul, who was well off his goal-line. The ball found its way to Ramirez, who fed Lallana for a simple tap-in. Saints were unlucky not to go into the break further ahead, with Ramirez and Lambert firing efforts at goal.
Newcastle did improve slightly after the interval, creating a number of decent efforts. Saints were still well and truly in control for the most part, however. The Magpies missed a great chance to equalise when Vurnon Anita was put through on goal. His shot was straight at Gazzaniga, who had positioned himself well to make the save. The Argentinian later made a one-handed save from Davide Santon which had the whole stadium on their feet. At the other end Saints were relentless in their pursuit of further goals. Number two eventually arrived on the hour. A neat bit of play between Puncheon and Lallana resulted in the former putting in a low cross which Krul couldn't keep hold of. Ramirez was alert to the situation, hooking the ball out of the keeper's grasp and in to the back of the net. Saints came very close to adding to the scoring on a number of occasions. Ramirez had two decent penalty shouts turned down, while Puncheon hit the post. Steven Davis tested Krul, before fellow substitute Jay Rodriguez had a goal disallowed for offside.
A terrific team-showing from Saints. It's been a long time since we've been as dominant as we were. Defensively we looked extremely solid. The team shape has improved considerably, with the back-four no longer as exposed as it was. Everyone is working hard for each other, with the likes of Lallana and Ramirez constantly tracking back and defending from the front. Jack Cork has added a greater layer of protection since coming back, but it should also be noted that Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida have stepped up their games considerably recently. Gazzaniga's confidence should be boosted by that second half display. The full-backs were very good again too. Clyne looks to be one of the most impressive signings we've made in recent times. It was a very clever move by Adkins to bring Shaw off for a standing ovation at the end of the game. Saints were strong defensively, but were also on fire at the other end. Puncheon, Lallana and Ramirez were unplayable at times. Newcastle just couldn't handle them. The only slight regret from today is that we didn't put a few more goals away. If Saints can keep up this level of performance than there's no reason why we can't move further up the league.
Attendance: 31,410 (2,019 Newcastle fans)
Gazzaniga: 8. Recovered from a slightly shaky start to make a number of tremendous saves
Clyne: 8. Such a consistent player. Rarely makes a mistake defensively, and links up with Puncheon brilliantly going forward.
Fonte: 8. Barely put a foot wrong. Positioning and timing spot-on
Yoshida: 8. Gets better every week. Strong defensively and distribution very good
Shaw: 8. Another mature showing. Improving tactically with every game
Cork: 8. Linked up play between defence and attack superbly. Has yet to lose a match with Saints since his return
Schneiderlin: 8. Made a number of crucial interceptions
Puncheon: 8. Tireless effort as ever. Created a number of opportunities through sheer hard-work
Lallana: 8. A threat from minute one. At his very best, causing havoc for the Newcastle backline
Ramirez: 9. Cut through the Newcastle back-line with ease, creating chance after chance. Never failed to neglect his defensive duties either
Lambert: 8. Received a knock in the first-half which effected his performance slightly, but excellent link-up play in the first half
Rodriguez: 6. Unlucky to have a goal chalked off for offside
Davis: Helped to see the game out
Hooiveld: Good to see him back on the pitch