WHEN it rains on Newcastle United, it inevitably pours.
And a soggy St Mary’s Stadium was the setting yesterday for another forgettable 90 minutes in the club’s faltering Premier League season.
Southampton won. And they won well.
The final score could easily have been more than 2-0 to Nigel Adkins’s team.
And on this evidence – and that of the past few weeks – it’s going to be a long winter for Alan Pardew’s side.
Injuries and suspensions – and the demands of the Europa League – have taken their toll on Newcastle.
And it’s hard to believe United would be 14th in the Premier League table today, and just four points above the relegation zone, had the club signed another couple of players in the summer.
January can’t come quick enough, but history tells the club’s fans wait on the transfer window more in hope than expectation.
The lack of numbers meant forgotten striker Nile Ranger was recalled for Pardew’s first-team squad for the first time since May last year.
And that told its own story.
As it was, Ranger didn’t make it on to the pitch as a side in part assembled by Pardew during his time at the club demolished his Newcastle team.
United, so often slow starters this season, set about their tasks in promising enough fashion, with Demba Ba heading wide from a fifth-minute Shane Ferguson cross.
But the visitors just couldn’t keep hold of the ball for any length of time.
And the longer the half went on, the more likely Southampton looked like scoring.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul pushed away a free kick from Gaston Ramirez in the 24th minute, and he also stopped a shot from Jason Puncheon.
By then, Newcastle’s own attacks had all but dried up.
Rickie Lambert – who had been well marshalled by former Saint Mike Williamson up to then – struck the woodwork from a set-piece in the 32 minute.
Something had to give. And it did.
Krul raced out of the box to make a clearance, which was intercepted by Nathaniel Clyne. His hopeful shot towards goal was cleared by Williamson, but before Krul could return to his line, Ramirez was able to roll the ball to Lallana for the simplest of finishes.
Pardew replaced Ferguson with Sammy Ameobi for the second half.
But his team saw even less of the ball as the rain continued to come down at the St Mary’s Stadium.
It was almost one-way traffic, with United as dispirited as they were disjointed. As in the first half, a goal for the home side was an inevitability.
It came from Ramirez, who was there to finish from close range after Puncheon’s low cross from the left was parried into his path by Krul.
There were chances for Vurnon Anita and Davide Santon – both forced saves from goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga – but the respite was brief.
Puncheon also struck the post for Adkins’s side, who had far too much time and space in Newcastle’s third of the pitch.
Jose Fonte hit the crossbar with an 81st-minute header from a corner.
There was no late comeback. Instead, Southampton pressed for a third goal.
Some of United’s 2,019-strong following lingered long enough in the away end to applaud the team off the field.
But they didn’t deserve it.
And didn’t they know it.
Jonas Gutierrez – captain in the absence of Fabricio Coloccini – and Mike Williamson were the only players willing to speak to the media after the game.
Most of their team-mates left St Mary’s Stadium with their heads down.
Newcastle are down, and if they’re not careful, they’ll soon be out of the running for a top-eight finish.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 6; Simpson 6, Williamson 6, S TAYLOR 6 (Perch, 90), Santon 6; Gutierrez 5, Anita 5 (Marveaux, 66, 5), Tiote 5, Ferguson 6 (Sammy Ameobi, 46, 5); Cisse 5, Ba 6. Subs not used: Harper, Tavernier, Bigirimana, Ranger.
SOUTHAMPTON: Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw (Hooiveld, 90); Schneiderlin, Cork; Puncheon, Lallana, Ramirez (S Davis, 78); Lambert (Rodriguez , 76). Subs not used: K Davis, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka, Guly.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Krul. For the second game in a row the scoreline could have been worse if not for Krul.
HIGHLIGHT: The final whistle. It put Newcastle out of their misery.
LOWLIGHT: Gaston Ramirez’s goal – it ended any hopes of a comeback from United.
Goals: Lallana 34, Ramirez 60
Bookings: Fonte 22, Williamson 42, Ramirez 71, Tiote 86
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds)
Attendance: 31,418 (2,019 Newcastle)