Rafa Benitez has slammed his Newcastle players, claiming they lacked “character and passion” in the miserable defeat at Southampton.
Comical defending and a limp, frozen performance from Newcastle gifted Southampton an easy 3-1 league win at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Shane Long, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama struck all too easily for Southampton, consigning Newcastle to a sixth defeat in a seven-match winless run.
Manager Benitez implored Newcastle’s fuming fans to back his beleaguered side ahead of Saturday’s critical home clash with Swansea, demanding a victory to keep the survival fight alive.
“Character and passion, and positive play – that’s the very least of what is expected every game, for 90 minutes,” said Benitez.
“But it is clear that that was very much lacking in the first half. That’s not a situation that we can have away from home, so we have to make changes to how we’ll play away from home.
“Before that we’ll have to prepare for the next home game, and we just hope we can keep the fans behind us. It’s very clear that we can say nothing to our fans.
“They come here to see the team fighting and winning and we didn’t do that in the first half. So you have to understand their feelings.
“But we’ll need support from the fans, we need them behind us to drive us on, to get a result against Swansea.”
Hapless defender Steven Taylor was hauled off at half-time, so abysmal was the former Newcastle captain’s performance on the south coast.
Taylor appeared racked with fear, crucially standing off Long for Southampton’s opener, before full-back Daryl Janmaat’s bungled attempt at an interception led directly to the hosts’ second goal.
Taylor’s replacement Jamal Lascelles later admitted Newcastle are lacking the hunger and fight required to beat the drop – challenging his team-mates to sharpen focus, and fast.
“It’s not acceptable: as individuals we can’t play like that and as a team or we will struggle,” Lascelles told the BBC.
“The gaffer had a go at us at half-time. He said what we needed to do and we got a reaction with a goal back.
“But the only thing we can do now is put it behind us and focus on next week.”