Southampton 0-1 Newcastle United
- Goals: Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m)
- Assists: None
- Bonus: Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) x3, Saint-Maximin x2, Federico Fernandez (£4.5m), Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) x1
Newcastle won away for the first time since Gameweek 15 despite a heroic performance from Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (£4.5m).
The winner came from Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m), the mercurial winger bursting into the area and poking the ball past McCarthy with just over 20 minutes to go.
That ended a long stretch of defiance from the Saints, who were reduced to ten men when Moussa Djenepo (£5.2m) was sent off after 28 minutes for a nasty, if clumsy, tackle on Isaac Hayden (£4.3m).
Saint-Maximin’s goal was only his second of the season – in a pleasing display of symmetry, his first came in the Magpies’ previous away win, 2-0 at Sheffield United.
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce was keen to stress his player’s good and bad qualities post-match:
His natural ability is scary. He has a bit to learn too, and if he does, if he sorts the other bits out, we have a hell of a player on our hands.
Those ‘other bits’ involve Saint-Maximin’s decision-making and defensive duties, with the latter a major side of Newcastle’s game in recent weeks – Saturday’s clean sheet was their second in a row and fourth in seven Gameweeks.
Once Djenepo was dismissed, following an intervention from VAR, a Newcastle shut-out was always likely, although Martin Dubravka (£5.0m) was still called into action three times; enough for him to earn a combination of both save and bonus points for only the sixth time this season.
Decent returns from well-priced defenders is the major Fantasy attraction of Newcastle players of late, but Matt Ritchie (£5.3m) blew the chance of a big haul at St Mary’s Stadium.
The Scottish international, classified as a defender in FPL this season, has been used by Bruce as a midfielder for the past two weeks. His out-of-position credentials would have been given a big boost had he converted a penalty, awarded by VAR for a Sofiane Boufal (£5.5m) handball at the end of the first half.
Unfortunately for Ritchie, McCarthy brilliantly saved the spot-kick as Newcastle’s attacking woes – they hadn’t scored for four league matches going into the encounter – continued.
To be fair to Bruce’s men, their lack of an end product was as much down to McCarthy as their own profligacy.
The Southampton keeper was a man inspired on Saturday, producing a superb triple-save to deny Dwight Gayle (£5.0m) and Miguel Almiron (£5.8m), twice, before pulling off another fine stop from a Gayle header and sealing the deal with the penalty.
McCarthy’s heroics earned him the maximum bonus award and his first double-digit haul of the campaign as Newcastle were kept to just the one goal scored from seven shots on target and a chance every 6.9 minutes.
Gayle, preferred up top to Joelinton (£5.5m), missed a big chance, while Almiron again caught the eye in an advanced role just off the striker, but the midfielder still lacks an end product to justify Fantasy investment.
The same could not be said of Saints striker Danny Ings (£7.2m), whose ownership and price tag went through the roof during a 13-goal run from Gameweeks 7 to 22.
He’s scored just once since then and was kept to only one attempt, off-target, against Newcastle. Playing in a side with ten men for 60-plus minutes certainly didn’t help, particularly as he was shunted out to the left flank of a 4-4-1 once Djenepo had been dismissed.
Whatever the mitigating circumstances, Fantasy managers have clearly had enough. Ings lost a net 248,005 owners going into the match and he’s currently leading the way for Gameweek 30 transfers out among FPL forwards.
A Gameweek 31 blank and a patchy schedule that follows won’t inspire investment in any Saints assets, particularly as there’s a nagging sense that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team, who sit a comfortable seven points above the relegation places, could be the first thinking about what this summer’s must-have beachwear might be.
The manager couldn’t fault his players’ commitment, however:
I cannot criticise my team for not doing everything, they left everything on the pitch. It was a good performance on our side.
Newcastle also have a Blank Gameweek 31, so Fantasy interest might be minimal in the short term, particularly for those FPL bosses who are stockpiling assets who actually have an unaffected game in that decimated round of matches.
The Magpies will then have to face Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City during a mixed bag of a run-in but there are some more favourable fixtures around those clashes and the potential for an appealing-looking Double Gameweek 37 against Brighton and Aston Villa – although that hinges on the results of the FA Cup quarter-finals, with other permutations possible.
Southampton XI (4-4-2): McCarthy; Bertrand, Bednarek, Stephens, Valery; Boufal (Obafemi 85′), Ward-Prowse, Højbjerg, Djenepo; Ings, S Long (Adams 77′).
Newcastle United XI (4-4-2): Dúbravka; Rose, Lascelles, Fernández, Manquillo (Lazaro 72′); Saint-Maximin, Hayden (S Longstaff 79′), Shelvey, Ritchie (Joelinton 61′); Almirón, Gayle.
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