Football: Suffering Saints grilled twice over: Cole fires Newcastle

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Southampton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

WHAT you had to bear in mind was we were hearing the sanitised version of Alan Ball's words. What he had said to his Southampton players without the constraints on language required for breakfast newspaper reading did not bear thinking about.

'It was embarrassing to be their manager,' Ball said with a control that chilled. 'We were awful. You can't defend as badly as we did and expect to do well here. We gave away amateur goals, disgraceful goals.' You expect the paint had been burnt off the walls by the expletives he found in the privacy of the dressing-room.

The Saints' defence tossed away their halos earned by 30 minutes of obdurate resistance and committed enough cardinal sins in the remainder of the match to keep the confessional busy for months. Nothing should detract from the clinical Newcastle strikes by Steve Watson (twice), Andy Cole (twice) and Robert Lee, but the visiting back four was simply incompetent.

By the end Ball had substituted both his centre-backs, Tom Widdrington and Richard Hall, even though Francis Benali seemed to be holding the dagger on at least three occasions when a defensive crime led to a goal. 'There was no commitment, no belief,' Ball muttered darkly.

By way of contrast, Newcastle's new signing, Philippe Albert, was giving an altogether different display of the art of defence. Different in terms of class - not since Alan Hansen have these shores contained a centre-back as comfortable with the ball - but in terms of interpretation, too.

When Peter Beardsley was injured the Belgian clearly decided that, notwithstanding his marking duties, it was his reponsibility to fill the gap and he charges forward in a manner that would give George Graham apoplexy if Tony Adams or Steve Bould followed suit. For the first Newcastle goal he was on the left wing, for spells in the match he was further ahead than Cole; no centre back of recent memory has covered as much ground.

Ironically, when Albert did turn up where he was supposed to he was the defender playing Nicky Banger onside for Southampton's only goal. But he and Newcastle regained their haughty supremacy and in their last goal provided as perfect an example of efficiency and ruthlessness as you could get.

Cole received the ball 40 yards out and accelerated with such venomous intent that a shot seemed the logical outcome. Instead he feinted to go left and then passed precisely to meet Lee's run. From Cole to goal the ball had gone in a straight line but Southampton were powerless to stop it. Terry Venables, the watching England coach, could hardly fail to have been impressed by his performance.

Twelve goals and three wins in three Premiership matches, Newcastle are rampant. 'This is their strength,' Ball said referring to St James' Park. 'They were at our throats from the first minute to the last. The fortress has been built and any team that knows it is going to win its home matches has every chance of becoming champions.'

Goals: Watson (30) 1-0; Watson (37) 2-0; Cole (40) 3-0; Banger (52) 3-1; Cole (70) 4-1; Lee (85) 5-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Hottiger, Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Watson, Venison, Lee, Sellars (Elliot, 79); Fox (Mathie, 60), Cole. Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Southampton: Grobbelaar; Kenna, Hall (Whiston, 73), Widdrington (Heaney, 45), Benali; Allen, Magilton, Maddison, Charlton; Le Tissier, Banger. Substitute not used: Beasant (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

(Photograph omitted)