Newcastle signed off before an enforced three-week hiatus by dispatching a meek Southampton side with consummate ease at St James’ Park on Saturday – moving five points clear of the relegation zone in the process.

Kenedy scored twice before half-time, including the opener in front of the Leazes End after just 63 seconds, before Matt Ritchie steered in the third as United recorded a second successive home win to climb to 13th in the table.

Beating the Saints was the perfect riposte to losing at Liverpool the previous weekend, and Rafa Benitez can take his players away to Spain for a four-day training camp safe in the knowledge that there is now some considerable distance between Newcastle and the bottom three.

Another round of Premier League fixtures will be played whilst the Magpies enjoy a free weekend, further emphasising how important it was to go into this 21-day break on the back of an encouraging victory that maintains a positive momentum which is underpinning the improvements made by Newcastle in 2018.

It has been a collective change orchestrated entirely by Benitez who, to his credit, has never lost focus nor allowed his squad to become distracted from the task at hand despite another disappointing January transfer window.

It is thanks to him that Newcastle go into another crucial six-pointer with Huddersfield at the end of March knowing they can edge closer to achieving the ultimate goal this season – survival.