It is only a fool who thinks that hard work on the training ground can’t pay dividends on a matchday – this season at Newcastle United already clear proof of that.
Eight of Newcastle’s 10 Championship goals have come from set-pieces (corners, free-kicks, penalties) and only two from open play.
A quite remarkable transformation under Rafa, to go from a situation under Pardew, Carver and McClaren where these type of goals were such a rarity. All kinds of excuses from Pardew in particular as to why the team weren’t capable of attacking (or defending!) set-pieces.
Scoring yesterday’s opener with a blistering volley from Shelvey’s corner, Yoan Gouffran confirmed that this was one of the corner routines Rafa Benitez had had them practising at length.
With clean sheets in the last four games, Rafa can be more than satisfied that he is getting it right at both ends when it comes to the training ground graft on set-pieces.
This is how Newcastle have scored their 10 Championship goals so far:
Fulham 1 Newcastle 0
Newcastle 1 Huddersfield 2
Dwight Gayle scoring from a penalty after keeper saves first effort.
Newcastle 4 Reading 1
Ritchie free-kick eventually falls to Hayden in the box who scores with low shot,
A Newcastle corner sees Gouffran fouled – Ritchie scoring from the spot-kick.
Superb Gayle free-kick from over 25 yards out makes it three.
Hayden dribbles into box and squares for Gayle tap-in.
Bristol City 0 Newcastle 1
Diame perfect ball through the middle and Gayle expertly finishes.
Newcastle 2 Brighton 0
Ritchie plays free-kick in and excellent Lascelles header meets it.
Jonjo Shelvey quality free-kick from outside the box.
Derby County 0 Newcastle 2
Corner on the left, Shelvey knocks it in and Gouffran unleashes explosive volley (watch it here).
Second goal, Shelvey knocks corner in from the left to pick out the only Newcastle player in the penalty area, Ayoze Perez volleys it into Yedlin’s path for the USA international to finish – what a team goal.