Derby 0 Newcastle 2  –  Saturday 10 September 5.30pm

After a surprising, and quite frankly, dreadful start to our Championship campaign, things are starting to look up again for Newcastle United.

Although, in our three away games so far this season, i do need to ask – has there been that much difference in our performances?

While the loss to Fulham was lauded as a wake up call, and an embarrassing performance, I don’t think the performance at Bristol City, or Derby on Saturday, were too different at all, except for the fact that we took our chances (only chances to be honest).

We only had one chance against Fulham, which Matt Ritchie did not take. We created only one chance against Bristol City, which Dwight Gayle did take. And we created only one chance against Derby, which Yoan Gouffran did take (in fact I wouldn’t even call it a chance). This isn’t a criticism, I just think it is a very risky way to play, but in Rafa we trust!

It is this type of performance that I think we can expect to see a lot of this year, especially away from home.

Setting up with a conservative back four, that is highlighted with the inclusion of Paul Dummett, a defender who will not be over-lapping the winger to get forward but a solid and often safe defender. While we can probably expect to see Lazaar, a full back with much more attacking intent, featuring more at St James Park.

Two holding midfielders who rarely venture passed the halfway line when in possession, and when defending, sit deep, at times almost sitting on top of the two centre halves. Again, I think we are more likely to see Colback deployed in away games this year rather than Hayden. Colback brings a bit more energy to the midfield away from home, breaking up play and being able to face up to opposition players, like he did with Will Hughes on Saturday.

There were a few comments in my ratings (see them HERE) that Hughes is a class above Colback, but to my memory Hughes did not create anything on Saturday, and was restricted to having the ball in his possession on the half way line.

Similarly, out wide we can expect to see at least one of the wingers ‘sacrificed’, with someone like Gouffran, or even Yedlin, being used rather than Perez or Atsu, in order to provide extra cover and legs in the defensive third.

All of this makes for pretty boring football away from home, and Saturday, like Fulham and Bristol, was pretty boring – but if we pick up 3 points then that’s all that matters – right?

The optimism continues and a fifth straight win at any level is something to be extremely positive about.

The Game

The game itself wasn’t great and was only made bearable by the fantastic support from our fans.

Derby were probably the better team in the first half, they created a lot of openings with Olson and Anya causing Anita a lot of trouble. However, Vurnon did manage to find his feet for the rest of the game. On the other side, Paul Dummett looked solid at the back. While Derby did create a lot of openings, they did not have any chances so to speak, and the away end was relatively nerve-free.

The goal came out of nothing really, although it was a bloody great goal from a player who has rejuvenated himself in recent weeks.

derby 0 newcastle 2

For those that saw him every week, they’ll know that Gouffran has never been a great player, never had a great deal of talent or any outstanding attributes but when he worked hard, ran his boots into the ground when he first arrived, he was an asset to the side. It’s that drop in work ethic on the pitch that i believe contributed to his recent downfall. Hopefully, under Rafa, we will begin to see the Gouffran of three years ago.

As mentioned, it was a fairly uneventful 90 minutes, one goal out of nowhere and another on the counter-attack at the end of the game was all there was to really speak about. I think we can expect a few more away days of this kind.

Rafa Benitez

Rotation is clearly going to be big for Rafa this year and the size of our squad compared to others is a big plus. While our best eleven is clearly good enough to get out of the Championship, it will be Rafa’s ability to set the team up away from home and get the best out of back up players such as Hanley, Clark, Colback, Gouffran, Atsu, Aarons, Perez, and Mitrovic, that will be pivotal during congested fixture schedule.

The Fans

3,200 fans made an incredible atmosphere in the far corner of the stadium, one of the best atmospheres that O have heard for a while. In fact, I can’t really remember a better away atmosphere than that going back at least 3/4 years – maybe since we won at Old Trafford.

QPR on Tuesday night and luckily for me, studying in London I don’t have to worry. However, for any fans north of London that manage to get to both games, they  must be commended, and in my opinion don’t get the credit from the club that they deserve.

Best fans in the country.

Last word before QPR:

In hindsight, Newcastle have only lost two games this season.

One to the current league leaders Huddersfield, who despite their small reputation have already proved themselves to be a credible rival for promotion this year, with a classy/organised manager and two star players in Nahki Wells and Aaron Mooy pulling the strings.

The other, Fulham, who have only lost once this season (in that game to Birmingham they played the whole second half with only 10 men) and knocked Premier League Middlesbrough out of the cup.

derby 0 newcastle 2

Can Newcastle now begin to push on, perhaps opening up and playing a more expansive style of football? Or is it all about picking up the points as quickly as possible and getting back to the Premier League playing whatever style of football need be?

If we are still in the top six by the end of September, taking into account it will include (on paper), our most difficult set of fixtures: Derby (a), QPR (a), Wolves (h), Villa (a), Norwich (h), then I will be very happy.

Here are the stats from BBC Sport:

Derby 0 Newcastle 2

Goals – 

Newcastle:  Gouffran 20, Yedlin 90+1

Possession was Derby 53% Newcastle 47%

Total shots were Derby 9 Newcastle 11

Shots on target were Derby 2 Newcastle 3

Corners were Derby 2 Newcastle 5

Team: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Colback, Shelvey, Gouffran (Yedlin 73), Ritchie, Diame (Hayden 88), Gayle (Perez 76)

Unused Subs: Darlow, Clark, Lazaar, Mitrovic

Referee: James Linington

Crowd: 30,405 (Newcastle 3,200)

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

(To watch both Newcastle goals v Derby go HERE)

(To read the instant Newcastle fan/writer reaction to the 2-0 win go HERE)