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Shola shines but would love a Newcastle goal as anniversary looms
Full-time: Newcastle United 1 Southampton 1
ANOTHER goal, another French goalscorer. If it was as easy for one of Newcastle United's English contingent to find the net, Alan Pardew would have been reflecting on a fourth successive home win this morning.
Instead Southampton left Tyneside with a point, probably deserved after a much improved second half showing, and Newcastle were left ruing the chances which were not converted.
France striker Loic Remy, who also had an effort cleared off the line by Calum Chambers in the first half, might have missed the best of them all to win the game in the second half. But try telling that to Shola Ameobi today.
Ameobi has enjoyed a new lease of life in recent weeks but it will be a year on Sunday when he last found the net in the Premier League.
He went home on Saturday night reliving one moment just before the hour against Southampton when he felt the wait was going to be over.
Vurnon Anita's delivery dropped perfectly for Ameobi ten yards from goal but he completely missed the target with a free header.
Had he become only the second Englishman in the squad to score in 21 Newcastle goals, the Magpies would have been two up and likely to have gone on to seal the latest win in their attempts to climb in to the top five.
But eight minutes later, soon after Ameobi had been replaced by Papiss Cisse after an otherwise positive outing, Southampton struck the equaliser through Jay Rodriguez and that was how it stayed.
Ameobi, whose last league goal was in a December 22 win over QPR 12 months ago, said: “It is a long drought now. It is something I am trying not to think about. When was it? God knows, it is so long ago I have forgotten.
“Obviously I am extremely frustrated. I am playing well but not scoring goals. I should have buried that header in the second half, it was bread and butter for me.
“It is frustrating and something I need to work on. As a striker you get confidence from scoring goals. I have to add them to my game in the rest of the season. I am working hard in training to make sure I get into positions and hopefully they will come soon.
“For all that the team comes first, and as long as we win that is all that matters. On a personal level I want to break that duck as soon as I can. I am playing well. When the team is winning you want to get in amongst the goals. Hopefully I will put it right in the next couple of games.”
Gouffran, converting the 20th goal by a Frenchman in Newcastle's 21-goal run, has not encountered such problems and has now scored in each of his last four games at St James' Park.
He was the man to put Newcastle ahead in the 27th minute when he latched on to a Mike Williamson knock down by rounding goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga after Jos Hooiveld had completely messed up his attempt to clear.
Southampton never really got going as an attacking force until after the restart when Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin had been introduced for the second half.
And when Davide Santon had gifted possession to Lallana in the middle of the pitch, his quick pass sent Rodriguez on a rapid counter-attack with 25 minutes remaining.
The one-cap England international played a neat one-two with Steven Davis before beating the offside flag and applying the side-footed finish inside Tim Krul's bottom right corner.
Even then Remy had the chance to reclaim the lead for Newcastle. Lallana's back pass was not dealt with by Gazzaniga, whose clearance dropped straight at the feet of Newcastle's dangerous forward.
This time around the former Marseille man completely missed the target from 12 yards when it looked easier to score. Even Pardew said: “I was surprised he missed, but I’ve got no doubts about his ability and he won’t miss another one like that. I see him in training every day.”
Referee Mike Jones is accidentally punched by Newcastle's Moussa Sissoko
After that Newcastle, showing greater resolve than they did during last season, kept plugging away and looked the most likely of the two sides to find a winner even if Gazzaniga was never seriously tested again.
Ameobi, hoping to keep his place at Crystal Palace on Saturday, said: “That is something the manager has worked on this season - not feeling sorry for ourselves and folding and getting going again.
“When we have had set backs this season we have really dug in. We have worked hard to get back into the game. Even if we lose we have won the next game and if you want to do well in the Premier League it is something you have to be good at, not dwelling on the bad points and moving forward as a team.”
The closing stages were not so much about the football, more about the off-the-ball antics. There was a bizarre moment when Moussa Sissoko accidentally floored referee Mike Jones when he reacted to a little clip from Gazzaniga.
Then Newcastle goalkeeper coach Andy Woodman and his Southampton counterpart Toni Jimenez were told to leave the dug-outs when both benches clashed following a strong Schneiderlin challenge on Massadio Haidara in stoppage-time.
Ameobi said: “The referee one was pretty comical. I just saw him fall over. It was accidental. Then the other one … I stay out of things like that. It was handbags, it always is.
“There were a lot of angry faces as well. I was just sitting there watching it all, keeping out of it. I had a dead calf so I couldn't really join in! I suppose looking back it was quite funny.”
What does matter is that Newcastle have now taken 16 points from 21 and sit on the coat-tails of the Premier League's European places – even if it has been the Frenchmen scoring.
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