Belfast Telegraph

Steve McClaren forced to settle for a point by Southampton

By Martin Hardy

There was no fanfare, not even a bow, as Steve McClaren returned to the Premier League yesterday after a nine-year absence.

Instead, he waited until his new side had held on - just - for a point. It might not seem much, but not losing was a start. They have got used to seeing their team lose at St James' Park in recent seasons, so when McClaren emerged from his dugout and stood near to the centre circle to applaud all four sides of the stadium, he was well received.

It was one, however, that could so easily have had the spring taken out of it for several reasons; the two opportunities Southampton spurned at the end, and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Much expectation sits on the shoulders of the centre forward, a 20-year-old, excitable Serb. He was given a tremendous ovation when he took his first steps on to the St James' Park turf in a competitive game, replacing Papiss Cisse, in the 75th minute.

Mitrovic announced his arrival in English football in the same manner as Paul Gascoigne grabbed the attention in the 1991 FA Cup final.

The record will show that the £12.7m signing from Anderlecht had been on the field for 18 seconds, but with the ball in play, fewer than three seconds had passed when he recklessly launched a two-footed challenge at Matt Targett, who had the sense to jump and narrowly miss the challenge. That probably saved Mitrovic from a red card.

McClaren conceded:"If he'd got a red we would have had no complaints."

With 25 minutes gone, and after a bright start from the home side, Cedric Soares crossed from the right and Graziano Pelle climbed high to head past Tim Krul, but on the stroke of half-time Cisse chested in an equaliser.

Then three minutes into the second-half, Newcastle found the kind of extra gear that was so absent from their play last season.

Cisse clipped a clever ball down the line to Gabriel Obertan who volleyed his first-time centre into the Southampton penalty area, where Georginio Wijnaldum cleverly steered his header home.

But it was not enough for victory as Shane Long came on to head a 77th-minute equaliser past Krul.

NEWCASTLE: Krul, Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Haidara, Anita, Colback, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Obertan, Cisse. Subs: De Jong (Wijnaldum, 81 mins), Aarons, Perez, Tiote (Anita, 68 mins), Darlow, Taylor, Mitrovic (Cisse, 75 mins).

Southampton: Stekelenburg, Cedric Soares, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett, Steven Davis, Wanyama, Tadic, Mane, Rodriguez, Pelle. Subs: Long (Rodriguez, 66 mins) Martina (Soares, 46 mins), Ward-Prowse, Reed, Juanmi, Gazzaniga,


Man of the match: Georginio Wijnaldum

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)

Belfast Telegraph


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