WHAT a difference a week makes in football.
Here was me thinking that Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew’s decision to field a strong side against Metalist Kharkiv would backfire two-fold.
First of all because the Ukrainians would still be too strong for them in their own back yard.
And secondly because both the defeat and tortuous journey home would leave the Magpies too knackered to deal the with more important matter of a relegation six-pointer less than three days later at home to Southampton.
Yet remarkably United deservedly won the Europa League clash – albeit after surviving the obligatory late siege upon their goalmouth – before moving six points clear of the relegation trapdoor by defeating the Saints 4-2.
In truth, the Southampton win back on Gaulowgate – get it? – was far from convincing.
The visitors were the better side for long periods of the game, particularly in the second half, and kept going even after conceding the decisive fourth goal.
But in Newcastle’s defence it has to be remembered that Southampton have not had a testing Europa League double header to worry about since their last match a fortnight ago.
The Saints’ own defence also left a lot to be desired.
They even made the Magpies look dangerous from set pieces with Steven Taylor continuously escaping his marker and rising above the diminutive Nathaniel Clyne.
It is still 17 months, however, since Newcastle last scored from a corner.
Not that we should get too greedy following the recent upturn in the Toon’s fortunes.
One last word on Southampton’s hopes of survival.
For all their pretty football, it might just take a serious injury to striker Ricky Lambert to leave them firmly in the bottom three.
No such problems for Newcastle United.
Not this week anyway.
Enjoy the good times while they last.
– GAVIN LEDWITH