The home game against Wolves, in the EFL Cup, served up some surprise packages for Newcastle fans.
The display was something of a joy to watch, coming as quite the surprise, following the lacklustre performance against the same opposition in the league just a few days before.
As expected, Newcastle fielded a completely different side to that which had been disgraced the previous Saturday. Karl Darlow replaced Matz Sels in goal and gave a wonderful account of himself. Looking supremely confident, claiming crosses and making a couple of good saves.
While not overworked, Darlow seemed to do that which was asked of him, with minimal fuss or drama. In front of Darlow, a completely new back four of; DeAndre Yedlin, Grant Hanley, Ciaran Clark and Achraf Lazaar. As a unit, this new look defence did reasonably well, on the whole.
DeAndre Yedlin looked the polar opposite to regular right back, Vurnon Anita, but not in a bad way. While Anita looks to plug holes in the defence, with great positional sense and tactical awareness, complemented by simple football, Yedlin looks to rely heavily on his pace to allow him to cover after bombing forward to help out his winger, adding a different dimension to the team’s style of play.
Hanley and Clark looked reasonably solid, with Clark looking the better of the two, on the night. While Hanley was exposed at times, seemingly lacking in positional sense, Clark read the game well throughout, cutting out danger at every opportunity.
Debutant Achraf Lazaar, had something of a mixed debut. Struggling, at times, to successfully complete the simplest of tasks, but also looking capable of the sublime, beating men in next to no space and delivering crosses into the box. With this being only his first game, Lazaar has much to work on, but will receive the time and support to improve.
Jonjo Shelvey was partnered by Jack Colback in the middle of the park, with Colback taking over the role of Isaac Hayden, breaking up attacks and playing simple passes in order to start attacking moves and then, as the game went on, in order to help his side, establish control of the game.
In front of them, an attacking trio of Matt Ritchie, Mo Diame and Yoan Gouffran. Arguably the three best players on the pitch, with Ritchie the pick of the bunch, playing a hand in both goals. Firstly, by scoring himself, before turning provider for the second, which was scored by the revitalised Gouffran (watch both goals HERE).
Gouffran himself offered a balance to the side that was missing at the weekend. Holding his position well, while giving a very disciplined and hard working performance, as well as showing quality on the ball, both when passing and running with it.
Mo Diame had received a great deal of criticism for his performance at the weekend and bounced back brilliantly. He played with flair and freedom, running with the ball and creating chances, for both himself and his teammates. He looked every bit as good as he had earlier in the season, coupling his skill and imagination with good control and a complete range of passing to top it off.
At the very head of the side was another debutant. Daryl Murphy had arrived on Tyneside to mixed reviews. Some felt that his physical presence was exactly what the side had been lacking, while others thought that his best days were behind him and he lacked the ability to lead the line for a side at the very top of this division.
Murphy gave a very good account of himself, challenging for every high ball and winning most, while offering a physical presence that made it extremely difficult for the Wolves defence. He had the chance to top it off with a goal but sadly wasted it, but Murphy was excellent throughout, he is another player whose development and career will be interesting to follow.
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