Rafa Benitez had the luxury of selecting the same Newcastle team for two home games running on Saturday and he saw a big pay-off.

The same players who had beaten Manchester United again delivered, brushing aside Southampton to earn another huge three points towards their survival bid.

At least until Islam Slimani proves his form and fitness, Rafa now looks to have settled on his best XI and the results are following.

As Rafa pleaded for signings in three consecutive transfer windows, some critics pondered the need for a goalkeeper like Martin Dubravka, while Florian Lejeune was perhaps not seen by all as a necessity and the assumption was that Kenedy would replace Paul Dummett.

But Dubravka, Lejeune and Dummett now make up 60 per cent of a back line that looks as sturdy and balanced as any Newcastle defence has in a long, long time.

Dubravka continues to impress and an understanding is already there with Jamaal Lascelles and Lejeune, who are forming a very effective partnership, improving every week.

DeAndre Yedlin is the undoubted first choice on the right of the defence, while Dummett is just about the club’s most consistent player.

Rafa has always been lauded for his ability to make a team solid and so it is no surprise that he has done the same at St James’ Park when he has been able to fit his best defensive players together.

There is no reason the Magpies cannot improve further if the manager is given license to spend in the summer, with some improvement perhaps required in attacking areas.

Newcastle fans can at least for now celebrate a steady back line at a club that has typically leaked goals.

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