Newcastle boss Steve Bruce says Allan Saint-Maximin’s ability is “scary” after the winger put in a match-winning performance at 10-man Southampton.
Saint-Maximin scored the only goal of the game in the closing stages, pressuring Yan Valery into a mistake before tucking home beyond Alex McCarthy.
The win moves Newcastle eight points clear of the relegation zone with nine games to go.
“I said when Saint-Maximin walked in he will excite people,” said Bruce.
“His natural ability is scary. He has a bit to learn too, and if he does, if he sorts the other bits out, we have a hell of a player on our hands.
“He is always a threat, wants to get past you and that is a dying art. He has that natural ability in abundance.”
Southampton had been reduced to 10 men midway through the first half when Moussa Djnepro’s yellow card was upgraded to a red following a VAR review of his foul on Isaac Hayden.
But McCarthy had looked set to earn the Saints a battling point after making a stunning triple save to keep out efforts from Dwight Gayle and Miguel Almiron in the first half before then denying Matt Ritchie from the penalty spot.
However, Saint-Maximin had the final say to secure a win that moves Newcastle up to 13th in the table, eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Southampton, meanwhile, drops to 14th following a third defeat in their last four Premier League games.
The win could not have come at a better time for Newcastle after a run of five games without a victory in the Premier League had fans glancing nervously over their shoulder.
They started the day five points above the relegation zone and in severe lack of form in front of goal after drawing blanks in their previous four league outings.
It looked like that scoreless run would stretch to five games, although arguably through no fault of their own as they found Saints keeper McCarthy in inspired form in front of goal in the first half.
He saved everything that was thrown at him, keeping out Gayle from close range and then two efforts in quick succession by Almiron on the follow-up.
Gayle was denied again with a point-blank header and when McCarthy stretched superbly to keep out Ritchie’s well-hit spot-kick, it appeared that it was not going to be Newcastle’s day.
But in Saint-Maximin they have a player who is unpredictable but possesses explosive pace and strength and, in the closing stages, he stole the ball from Valery before placing a neat finish beyond McCarthy to ensure Newcastle escaped with three important points.
Southampton 0-1 Newcastle: Ralph Hasenhuttl ‘can’t criticise’ players after defeat
Southampton has struggled for consistency this season with long periods of losing often followed by excellent winning runs.
Four wins from five games in December and January had looked to have put them on course for a mid-table finish but Southampton has picked up just three points since the start of February.
Their good form in the middle of the season is likely to be enough to keep them out of trouble as they sit seven points above the bottom three but they will be keen to arrest their current slide soon just to be certain.
The home fans will feel aggrieved with some of the decisions that went against them in this game, although there can be few complaints about the red card for Djnepro. While his challenge was not malicious, his foot did land on Hayden’s ankle and the outcome could have been much worse for the Newcastle man.
Saints can take heart from how they battled for so long with 10 men and they will need to show those battling qualities once again with tough trips to relegation-threatened Norwich and Watford on the horizon.
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Source – BBC