Football: Slick Saints add to the Magpies' misery

Southampton 4 Newcastle United 2
Click to follow
The Independent Online
RUUD GULLIT had said that if Newcastle won yesterday "it will be all over", meaning not that he would retire in glory, but that the dangerously high levels of pressure building up again on Tyneside, which cost Kenny Dalglish his job a year ago, would be released.

Much more of this and, vote of confidence or not, it will be all over, with the Dutchman's wife, Estelle, granted her wish for Gullit to spend more "quality time" with his family. Some quality time on the practice ground will be necessary to prevent that outcome, and Gullit appeared to have made an immediate start last night by cancelling his trip to South Africa to manage a Fifa side in an exhibition match.

Asked about his future in a television interview, after declining to attend a press conference, he said: "I'll have to think about what I saw today and what I've seen for the last few weeks." Would he be in charge against Wimbledon on Saturday? "You never know," was the cryptic reply.

If he stays, Gullit will also need to start winning some friends as well as matches. While it is true that three defeats in August can lead to an exaggerated reaction from supporters, media, directors and (increasingly) shareholders, the manager's problem is that the malaise dates back to last spring. Until yesterday Newcastle had played 38 Premiership games under him, a convenient number to assess what he has achieved for pounds 33m spent on new players. 16 defeats and a total of 44 points was little better than relegation form. The team's last Premiership success came on 3 April. Even two successive appearances in the FA Cup final had been offset by the dreadfully limp performances at Wembley.

After taking out the first of this season's three defeats on the referee, Uriah Rennie, Gullit publicly lambasted his players for the second - always a risky strategy, as he belatedly accepted in ringing the local newspaper to modify his comments.

The Toon Army, meanwhile, soaking wet and far from home, looked on the verge of mutiny. They had seen their team take the lead after 22 minutes with a penalty by Alan Shearer, his first goal at The Dell since leaving Southampton. Although Kieron Dyer was outstanding in midfield, misgivings began to arise as the home side finally tested a suspect defence, with crosses that allowed Mark Hughes and Hassan Kachloul missed opportunities.

A new Dutch goalkeeper, John Karelse, only in the country for 48 hours, was then found wanting four times in 20 minutes after Southampton sent on a pair of inspired and inspiring substitutes in Stuart Ripley and Trond- Egil Soltvedt at half-time. Ripley, providing the service from the wing that Shearer once thrived on at Blackburn, set up Kachloul for a tap-in equaliser, then dropped a ball in between Marian Pahars and Karelse that the goalkeeper did not come for, allowing the Latvian to score.

Two minutes later Scott Hiley's long cross fell for Kachloul to drive his second goal and in the 78th minute Soltvedt nudged down another Ripley cross for Hughes to volley the sort of goal he spent all last season searching his memory bank for.

Gary Speed's late header was no consolation to a club sitting on the bottom of the Premiership, while Southampton laud it in sixth position.

Goals: Shearer (pen 22) 0-1; Kachloul (58) 1-1; Pahars (66) 2-1; Kachloul (68) 3-1; M Hughes (78) 4-1; Speed (84) 4-2.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Richards, Lundekvam, Richards, Benali; Oakley (Soltvedt, h-t), M Hughes, Le Tissier (Ripley, h-t), Kachloul (Bridge, 89); Ostenstad, Pahars. Substitutes not used: Colleter, Moss (gk).

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Karelse; Barton, Hughes, Goma, Domi; Solano, Dyer, Speed, Serrant (Maric, 13; Robinson, 71); Shearer, Ketsbaia. Substitutes not used: McClen, G Caldwell, Harper (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Bookings: Southampton: Benali, Hughes.

Man of match: Ripley.

Attendance: 15,030.