Steve McClaren keen to build on Newcastle United start

Steve McClaren keen to build on Newcastle United start

Steve McClaren`s first examination as Newcastle United`s head coach ended in a 2-2 draw at home to Southampton.

Now the real work can begin for the man who once managed England and is back in the Premier League for the first time in nine years.

This league has progressed since he was in charge at Middlesbrough, but he discovered on Sunday that one thing remains the same: it is still a harsh, unforgiving world where mistakes are punished.

While there was much to please McClaren in Newcastle`s performance, his experience will tell him there is still much work to be done to create a team equipped to challenge clubs like Southampton, who finished seventh last season.

By the end, though, the Saints needed a 79th-minute equaliser from Shane Long to deprive McClaren of a winning start that looked possible after goals from Papiss Cisse and Georginio Wijnaldum in each half wiped out a lead given the visitors by Graziano Pelle`s 24th-minute header.

Both Southampton`s goals came from headers, exposing a weakness at the heart of the defence where debutant Chancel Mbemba`s excellent passing and tackling were counter-balanced by failings in the air.

With Fabricio Coloccini also lacking aerial authority, McClaren knows he must confront this on the training ground. 

"It`s something we have to work on," he said.

Another new signing, Aleksandar Mitrovic, may be more problematic.

He has arrived with a hard-man reputation and justified it when he was booked for a foul on Matt Targett within three seconds of going on the pitch, then was fortunate to escape a red card after elbowing Maya Yoshida."It`s what he is," said McClaren, who held his head in his hands after the Serbian international`s first foul.

"He certainly doesn`t hold back and wanted to go on and impress. He is only a young lad and is going to be a player, but we couldn`t have complained if he had got a red card."

Erwin Koeman, in charge of Southampton because his brother Ronald has suffered an Achilles tendon injury, was angry about the challenge on his defender.

He said: "I don`t think he touched Targett, but if he had done, he could have put him in hospital. He`s a good player and a good signing, but he has to learn things."

The other disappointing aspect of the game for Koeman was Southampton`s failure to take advantage in the final 10 minutes when their superior fitness -- the legacy of recent Europa League action -- enabled them to pin Newcastle back and create two chances that Sadio Mane spurned.

"Ten minutes before the end, I would have been happy with a point, but we are now disappointed," said Southampton`s stand-in manager.

"You saw our fitness in the last 10 minutes when we had big chances. You have to score to win, though, and that`s why we leave with mixed feelings."

A Southampton victory would have been cruel on Newcastle, however. There is genuine promise in McClaren`s squad on this early evidence and he believes they can build on their display.

"I didn`t know what to expect, but the game had everything," McClaren said.

"We learnt so much and we can definitely get better once we we get our fitness levels up. This is something to build on. If we put in that sort of effort every week, the crowd will appreciate it." 

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