Saints made it back-to-back victories in the Barclays Premier League with a well-earned win over Newcastle at St Mary’s.
Although still early days in the grand scheme of things, this second home victory of the season was the sort of performance and result that was born from Saints’ recent form, which has now seen them go three games unbeaten, moving them out of the relegation zone in the process.
They set themselves on their way with a breakthrough goal on 35 minutes when Adam Lallana celebrated his second strike of the season after benefitting from Gaston Ramirez’s unselfishness inside the area.
The Uruguayan would go on to find the back of the net himself in the second half with a close range finish where Lallana helped return the favour by playing a part in the assist.
A first clean sheet of the campaign to boot for Paulo Gazzaniga ensured that it was as close to a perfect afternoon’s work as possible for Nigel Adkins’ side, who also hit the woodwork three times in the contest.
Saints: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw (Hooiveld 90), Puncheon, Schneiderlin, Cork, Lallana, Ramírez (S. Davis 76), Lambert (Rodriguez 75). Subs (not used): K. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka, Guly.
Newcastle: Krul, Santon, Simpson, Williamson, Anita, Cisse, Gutierrez, Ba, Tiote (Marveaux 67), Taylor (Perch 90), Ferguson (Sa. Ameobi 46). Subs (not used): Harper, Bigirimana, Ranger, Tavernier.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 31, 410 (including 2,019 away)
Nigel Adkins named an unchanged starting eleven for the third successive match.
There was one change to the matchday squad, with Guly amongst the substitutes in place of the injured Danny Fox.
Saints got the match underway defending the Northam stand on a drizzly and grey afternoon inside St Mary’s.
A positive start from the hosts saw Lallana win an early corner on the left flank whilst there were some neat interchanges through Ramirez and Puncheon on the slick surface.
The visitors were similarly quick on the break as they looked to utilise the attacking potency of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse with the former heading a Shane Ferguson cross narrowly wide of Paulo Gazzaniga’s left post with six minute son the watch.
At the other end, Nathaniel Clyne’s scuffed strike into the area almost saw Adam Lallana profit, as the ball skidded into his path, but the pace on the shot saw the ball bounce off the midfielder’s shins and on its way out of play.
Ramirez took matters into his own hands with a swift break on 10 which saw his shot cannon off a black and white shirt, and the Uruguayan was in the thick of it again moments later when he linked with Puncheon and Lallana before being brought down on the edge of the area, but frustratingly play was allowed to continue with the midfielder on the deck.
Saints were continuing to show terrific attacking intent with Puncheon proving to be a handful for the Magpies’ backline, forcing Krul into a low save at his near post, after bamboozling the Newcastle defence on the right.
The home side maintained their pressure on the Geordies, though United remained a threat from set plays, with Gazzaniga alert to punch clear from a corner and Fonte tidying up from a free-kick shortly after having gone into the book for a foul on Cisse inside his own half.
Ramirez struck a deadly set piece of his own from the edge of the area which forced Krul into a low save on 25 minutes as Saints hit back with renewed purpose.
Krul was to save Newcastle again with a stunning low save on 31 when he denied Puncheon who had got on the end of Lambert’s cut back inside the box only to see the Dutch keeper foil him with a terrific stop low to his left.
Two minutes later, Lambert struck the bar with another fiercely hit free-kick as Saints continued to bang on the door in trying to break the deadlock.
The door was firmly knocked down in the 35th minute when with Krul off his line, Clynbe tried an opportunist strike which was headed clear only as far as Ramirez, who cleverly held the ball before laying it off to LALLANA for a tap in from six yards out.
It nearly got even better for the hosts a minute later when Schneiderlin and Puncheon combined inside the area for the former to squeeze a low shot in at the near post that Stephen Taylor spread himself well to make a crucial block.
The last two chance of a productive half from the hosts arrived when former Saints man Mike Williamson went into the book for a foul on Ramirez. Lambert took the resulting free-kick, but he skied his effort over Krul’s bar, before Ramirez repeated that feat with a header in added on time, with the home side good value for their interval lead.
Half Time: Saints 1-0 Newcastle
The visitors introduced Sammy Ameobi for Shane Ferguson for the start of the second half as they looked to add fresh impetus to their forward line.
A livelier start to the second period by the visitors saw Ba test Gazzaniga with a header from a corner, with Saints needing to remain on their toes from a fresh wave of threats.
Gazzaniga was called into action again to deny Vurnon Anita when the former Ajax man broke through one on one with the Argentine stopper, who kept his cool to keep the shot out.
A torrential downpour from the skies added an extra edge to the contest, but the hosts soon rediscovered the attacking prowess when Ramirez broke with intent once more, creating the opportunity for Lallana to squeeze a shot in at Krul. The Uruguayan followed up in the next attack with an effort of his own when he got to the byline to cause Newcastle further worries.
They proved to be the warning signs as Saints doubled their lead on the hour mark. Superb link up between Lallana and Puncheon on the left flank created the opportunity, for RAMIREZ who took two bites of the cherry to force the ball home inside the six yard box for a goal that his performance had deserved.
Ramirez saw good claims for a penalty fall on deaf ears of the officials when he broke away impressively on the right, only for Tiote to clip him as he tried to cut in.
The visitors switched the hard working Anita for Frenchman Sylvain Marveaux on 67 before Tiote made a nuisance of himself at the other end to dink a shot from the edge of the area, narrowly over the bar.
More exquisite play from the hosts almost drew a third goal. The goal scorers Lallana and Ramirez were involved once more, to set up Puncheon for a lows trike inside the box, which rattled the base of the post as Saints knocked on the door again, certainly looking the more likely to score again.
They were alert inside their own box though on 73 when first, a terrific sliding block from Fonte, and then a fantastic outstretched one handed save from Gazzaniga kept out Cisse and Santon, respectively.
Adkins brought on Jay Rodriguez for Lambert inside the final quarter of an hour, with the latter having picked up a slight knock earlier in the game that Saints didn’t want to risk ahead of Wednesday’s game with Norwich.
Steven Davis followed Rodriguez onto the pitch in place of Ramirez as the hosts looked to see out the game.
But Saints weren’t closing up shop, Lallana and Puncheon again linked cleverly to set up substitute Davis for a shot at the near post which Krul kept out, and from the resulting corner taken by Puncheon, Fonte clattered the bar with a header.
There were further chances still for the hosts, with Schneiderlin playing in Lallana for a low strike that was saved by Krul, with the Dutchman certainly helping to keep the score down for the visitors as he recorded yet another block at his near post.
Despite Rodriguez having a goal ruled out for offside late on, the final few minutes were some of the most comfortable of the season to-date from a Saints’ perspective, with all three points thoroughly deserved for Adkins’ men.
Full Time: Saints 2-0 Newcastle