Newcastle United’s mini-revival was brought to an end with a bang at the St Mary’s Stadium tonight, where a goals from Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong gave Southampton a 2-0 win – and a place at the top of the Premier League.
There were no fireworks from Steve Bruce's side – and certainly not from Allan Saint-Maximin.
Saint-Maximin, again, wasn’t a threat, while it emerged before the game that Ryan Fraser, not involved on the South Coast, had suffered a hamstring injury.
The injury news was compounded by the sight of Callum Wilson limping out of the behind-closed-doors game with a hamstring problem.
Wilson had been overlooked by England manager Gareth Southgate before the game despite the loss of Southampton’s Danny Ings, who missed the game after suffering a knee injury last weekend.
That decision baffled Newcastle fans – and, presumably, Wilson, who couldn’t have done much more in his first seven games for the club.
“He certainly must (have been) in with a shout, because of the amount of goals he’s scored and the season he’s having,” said Bruce.
Wilson, however, never had a chance to add to his six-goal tally – and, worryingly, he limped off the field with 10 minutes left on the clock.
The other pre-match talking point concerned Saint-Maximin and his new role through the middle.
Saint-Maximin had scored the club’s last game before the first lockdown at St Mary’s Stadium, and the winger was given the opportunity to kick off the latest month-long coronavirus shutdown. However, this time the winger himself was locked down.
Bruce – whose side had beaten Everton 2-1 last weekend – had named an unchanged starting XI for the behind-closed-doors game, which kicked off after a minute’s silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday, but it was a changed performance in the first 45 minutes.
There was a din from fireworks being set off around the stadium, and the home side took the lead with a seventh-minute rocket from Adams, who had forced a save from Karl Darlow seconds earlier. Miguel Almiron, caught in possession by Theo Walcott to the left United’s box, was at fault for the goal.
Newcastle – who spent the first 15 minutes on the back foot – threatened briefly midway through the half. Saint-Maximin drifted around the pitch looking for openings, but space was hard to come by in a congested midfield.
There was a let-off for United before the break when Theo Walcott, played in by a superb piece of skill from Moussa Djenepo, put a chance wide.
Southampton marched on after the break, and United had Jamaal Lascelles and Karl Darlow to thank for a header off the line and a fingertip save respectively early in the second half.
Darlow also denied Jan Bednarek, and Bruce sent on Andy Carroll and Joelinton for the last 10 minutes.
Armstrong netted a second after Sean Longstaff was caught in possession late in the game, and United finally tested Alex McCarthy in the 86th minute with a Joelinton header.