MANAGERLESS Newcastle United have drifted into the bottom half of the Premier League.
Southampton won 2-1 at a subdued St James’s Park tonight thanks to a goal in each half from Eljero Elia.
Yoan Gouffran scored United’s goal, but he didn’t know much about it.
With the visitors leading through Elia’s early goal, Gouffran redirected a clearance from Florin Gardos into the net to end a year-long goal drought.
But Elia capitalised on some sloppy defending in the 62nd minute to claim all three points for Ronald Koeman’s side.
The result left Newcastle – who had been in the top half of the league table since early November – in 11th place.
Caretaker head coach John Carver made one change from the team beaten at Chelsea last weekend – defender Massadio Haidara replaced Mike Williamson – and his side made a positive start on a cold Tyneside evening.
Forward Ayoze Perez forced a save from Fraser Forster with an early shot after good work from Remy Cabella, and Gouffran tested the former United goalkeeper with a fine half-volley after a corner was only cleared as far as him.
But Newcastle were undone by some poor defending in the 14th minute.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini couldn’t stop Graziano Pelle chesting a ball forward to James Ward-Prowse, and he played in Elia, who shot under goalkeeper Tim Krul before Daryl Janmaat could close him down.
Southampton – who beat United 4-0 at the St Mary’s Stadium in September – looked comfortable after taking the lead.
And it took a great ball from Cabella to unlock their defence. Gardos slid in to deal with the midfielder’s ball forward, and his attempted clearance cannoned off Gouffran and into the net.
It was Gouffran’s first goal in more than a year.
Perez almost put Newcastle ahead before the break after latching on to a ball forward, but his delicate shot flew just wide of the right-hand post.
Koeman threw on Shane Long and Jack Cork just past the hour mark, and Gouffran headed a cross from Haidara wide in the 61st minute.
But the breakthrough was to come at the other end of the pitch.
Long headed a ball forward into the path of Elia, who got the better of Janmaat before beating Krul with a low shot to put Southampton back into the lead.
Carver sent on Sammy Ameobi and Emmanuel Riviere in the 68th minute, but it was Southampton who carried the greater threat going forward.
Pelle hit the crossbar with a header from a Nathaniel Clyne cross in the 77th minute, and Carver replaced Dummett with Williamson in a final change.
Referee Robert Madley waved away a late penalty appeal when Jose Fonte appeared to handle a shot from Riviere.
The decision incensed United, who are without a win this year.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul; Janmaat, Coloccini, Dummett (Williamson, 80), Haidara; Sissoko, Anita (Riviere, 68), Colback; Cabella, Perez, Gouffran (Ameobi, 68). Subs not used: Woodman, Santon, Abeid, Armstrong.
SOUTHAMPTON: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Gardos, Bertrand, Reed, S Davis, Ward-Prowse (Cork, 60), Tadic (Long, 60), Elia (Targett, 82), Pelle. Subs not used: K Davis, Isgrove, McCarthy, Hesketh.
Goals: Elia 14, 62, Gouffran 29
Booking: Davis 63
Referee Robert Madley (Wakefield)