THERE WAS NO happy return to the south coast for Newcastle manager Alan Pardew on Sunday as his side were roundly beaten 2-0 by Southampton, the club who sacked him two years ago.
A goal in each half from Adam Lallana and Uruguayan playmaker Gaston Ramirez lifted Saints out of the bottom three and left Pardew’s team with a long trek home north with nothing to show for their efforts.
In driving rain, the Southampton faithful gave Pardew a warm reception on his first return to St Mary’s since his sacking, in recognition of the vital part he played in shaping the current squad.
But there was no love lost on the pitch as in difficult conditions it turned into something of a war of attrition.
The early exchanges were all too familar as Southampton created half-chances but were unable to put them away.
First Newcastle defender Cheick Tiote’s disastrous back pass almost let in Rickie Lambert, but goalkeeper Tim Krul raced off his line to clear the danger.
Ramirez unleashed a peach of a left-footed free kick which curled awkwardly before Krul palmed it away and then Jason Puncheon pounced on Lambert’s clever cut-back, but Krul was there again to save with his legs.
Saints finally got the reward for their pressure when they took the lead on 35 minutes through Lallana, another survivor from the Pardew era at St Mary’s.
Moments before, Rickie Lambert had struck the bar with a free-kick and right back Nathaniel Clyne fired over Krul as he rushed out of his goal, but Mike Williamson’s clearance was picked up by Ramirez who intelligently knocked it into space for Lallana to side-foot home.
Saints nearly grabbed a second immediately afterwards but Stephen Taylor managed to block Morgan Schneiderlin’s blistering shot.
Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga had to make two smart saves from Demba Ba and Vurnon Anita and Lallana wemnt close at the other end before Saints extended their lead on the hour through the impressive Ramirez.
Lallana intelligently released Puncheon and his low cross was parried by Krul but Ramirez pounced to knock home.
Newcastle looked short of ideas as Southampton came close to a third when Lallana released Puncheon, whose low shot struck the post and 10 minutes from time, another Pardew protege, Jose Fonte, headed a corner against the bar and at the death Jay Rodriguez had a goal disallowed for offside.