This is why Steve Bruce has had his best week yet at Newcastle United
After 440 minutes without a Premier League goal, Newcastle United needed a bit of magic.
And cometh the hour, cometh the man. A bit of brilliance from Allan Saint-Maximin saw Steve Bruce’s side claim a deserved 1-0 win over 10-man Southampton – their first victory in the league since January 18 – and edge towards top-flight safety.
What’s more, the team was backed by almost 3,000 fans, a number of whom were left without flights to Southampton after the collapse of Flybe, just four days after 5,000 supporters watched them progress to an FA Cup quarter-final at The Hawthorns.
It’s been a good week for the team, and for previously under-pressure Bruce, away from Tyneside – and a win over Sheffield United at St James’s Park next weekend could see them all but safe.
Bruce had made six changes, the biggest of which was the inclusion of Gayle at the expense of Joelinton, who had played well in Tuesday night’s 3-2 FA Cup win over West Bromwich Albion.
Gayle and Miguel Almiron forced early saves from Alex McCarthy before the game’s first talking point.
Moussa Djenepo was dismissed after treading on Isaac Hayden in a challenge. Referee Graham Scott watched the incident on the pitchside monitor before making the decision, which enraged home fans. Unquestionably, however, it was the right call.
Hayden, fortunately, was able to continue, and Gayle had a close-range header from a deep Jonjo Shelvey cross just past the half-hour mark.
Sofiane Boufal was also rightly sent off after a VAR review after controlling the ball in the box with his arm. Many Southampton fans were apoplectic by this point. United supporters, meanwhile, chanted “VAR, VAR”.
Ritchie stepped up to take the resulting penalty, and his low spot kick was saved by McCarthy.
Newcastle were unchanged after the break, though Joelinton replaced Ritchie at the hour-mark.
And Saint-Maximin decided the game with a bit of brilliance with 10 minutes left. He took the ball off Yan Valery and rolled it home.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka, Manquillo (Lazaro, 72), Fernandez, Lascelles, Rose, Hayden (S Longstaff, 79), Shelvey, Ritchie (Joelinton, 62), Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Gayle. Subs not used: Darlow, Schar, Yedlin, Bentaleb.