On the whole, the seasons for Southampton and Newcastle have been very different, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s well-drilled Saints have been far superior to Steve Bruce’s erratic side.
The 9-man Magpies’ 3-2 win over Saints on Saturday showcased a new contrast between the sides, though, with the hosts showing the organized resilience and the visitors riding an unpredictable wave between silly mistakes and moments of brilliance.
The mistakes were more prevalent, though, despite James Ward-Prowse’s outstanding free kick and Takumi Minamino’s rocket goal on debut.
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Hasenhuttl was displeased.
“The story is easy to tell: Horrible start again, conceding goals far too easy,” said the Southampton boss. “It’s always tough to fight back. We tried it but not with the right tools. We saw on Tuesday how you have to do it and we didn’t. The delivery of the ball was horrible. The last pass wasn’t good in the box. We gave away the ball too easy. We had a few chances but not enough to do something here.”
He’d later add that Saints’ five-match losing streak — highlighted by a nine-man, 9-0 loss at Manchester United at midweek — means they have to find a way to sort themselves mentally because training-ground time is nearly non-existent.
“We aren’t in a good moment. This is the reason we are again without points. If we don’t find the reset button at the moment it’s because we have no chance to train, it’s only games, games, games at the moment. We must quickly find the reset button.”
As for Bruce, Newcastle has won two out of three after an 11-match winless run across all competitions.
The wins are over Everton and Southampton, deserved ones at that. That vibe is a far cry from a side which has handed points to a number of bottom-half sides this year.
And to have the win come with one man sent off, two injuries requiring two early subs, and then a third substitution coming before a player suffered a game-ending injury with 15 minutes left?
Very impressive, says Bruce.
“They were terrific in their defending, their attitude, and their application to get a result was pretty evident,” Bruce said. “The players are enjoying it but what you do need along the way are a few results, but performances have pleased me, little signs of encouragement. We’ll keep plugging away.”
There are unsteady waters ahead as Newcastle visits Chelsea and Manchester United before Wolves come to St. James’ Park, so a win Saturday will serve Bruce well.
“I’m never going to say we’ve turned a corner but I’ve been pleased over the last month, there have been signs of improvement,” he said. “The players are buying into it, so let’s hope we can get a few more results along the way.”
One thing stayed on brand for Newcastle’s season. On a day worth celebrating for resolve and performance, the Magpies were left to rue injuries to Callum Wilson, Fabian Schar, and Javier Manquillo.
Wilson’s is a hamstring ailment and won’t be too long — at least as far as that tricky muscle can be predicted — but Bruce said the other two will be out for a good while with serious injuries.