HAVING watched from the safety of the trenches last season, Matt Oakley will don his tin hat, ready to go over the top and face the muck and bullets at Newcastle on Sunday.

Injury ruled Oakley out of last season's trip to St James' Park, and he suffered even more pain as one of Saints' blackest Premiership days unfolded in front of him on TV.

But Oakley reckons Saints will be up for the fight this time round in the Toon Army's cauldron.

Saints' embarrassing first-half performance saw them 2-0 down after three minutes, and trail 4-0 at half-time before eventually losing 5-0. It could have been worse as Newcastle struck timber more than a lumberjack.

Oakley squirmed along with his team-mates as they watched the live screening back on the south coast.

"I watched it on the box with Matt Le Tissier, Chris Marsden and a few of the other lads who weren't playing.

"I remember we started badly and before we knew it we were three or four-nil down. Duncan Ferguson scored a couple, I seem to recall, and we committed suicide.

"In previous years we hadn't done too badly at Newcastle but last season it was just horrific to watch - and probably even worse to play in."

Oakley, though, reckons Saints are better equipped to go to St James' Park this time round and get a result, although he knows that Newcastle will be thirsting for revenge.

"They'll think they owe us one as we tore them apart at The Dell earlier in the season. That was probably one of our better performances this season. It was a day when we played well and actually got the goals.

"A few times this season we have played well and not scored and left teams still in games."

Saints will also go to Tyneside in the knowledge they have tightened up on the road this season.

Oakley says: "We will go there solid, after a good performance at Tottenham where we created chances but just didn't put the ball in the net. If we can do the same at Newcastle I don't see why we can't beat them."

Saints will step into a daunting atmosphere of 50,000 Geordies but Oakley reckons Saints can turn that to their advantage.

"I haven't played at St James Park since they've extended it and I'm told the atmopshere is really electric.

"But we'll see if we can turn that crowd against them. They're a loyal set of fans but if after 45 minutes to an hour the team aren't doing it, they can turn on them. And that's where we have to capitalise on it"