Newcastle 3 Brentford 1 – Saturday 15 October 2016 3pm
After the pointless, mind-numbing vacuum of yet another international break, it was back down to business in the best way possible.
St James Park, 3pm kick off on a Saturday afternoon and a healthy swarm of Bees supporters swelling the away end and the pubs, clearly buzzing (sorry) at the very concept of being here.
They would have had greater intent for the match surely, as Brentford are no mugs, sitting in seventh place before kick off with that look of intent about them of a team that are steadily going somewhere, reminiscent to me of the Bournemouth story of late.
Anyway, it didn’t turn out like that at all, as United shot out of the blocks, making it clear from the off they were set to perform at full capability. And the fact is that when Newcastle do that, they will beat absolutely anyone in this division, pardon my arrogance.
The fulcrum for this victory was of course Jonjo Shelvey, whose presence, work rate and distribution were the driving force behind United’s dominance. When a corner was half-cleared on ten minutes, it was his pinpoint cross from distance that landed sharply on the head of the shockingly unmarked Ciaran Clark to nod in a simple opener.
Five minutes later Shelvey was at it again. While his 30 yard floated pass forward failed to reach Gayle, the problems it created saw the Brentford defence tamely knock it to the nearby Atsu, who nodded back to our number nine, now in enough space to take a touch, look up, turn and finish. 2-0 on sixteen minutes looked like potential for a thumping.
Thump potential increased moments later as Perez looked to have made it 3-0 when deflecting Gouffran’s shot past keeper Bentley, but the fact that the replay betrayed an obvious handball means you have to give the officials their due on that one.
No further credit of any kind to the referee on this one unfortunately, as he chose the last ten minutes of the first half to commence a ridiculous spate of irritating, game-slowing “look at me” decisions. Unnecessary yellow cards were farted out liberally as the official resumed the knock-kneed tit-headed incompetence of a man who let Fulham punch two clearances out of their box in our season opener.
The game never really regained full flow after this, although there was a clear stand out spell in the second half.
First, Shelvey again cut Brentford open, taking the ball to the touchline and drawing the goalie before centring for a simple Gayle tap-in to make it 3-0. Unfortunately, before cruise control could be fully implemented the visitors had one back via corner (taken some yards outside of the corner circle) which was flicked on at the near post and bundled in by the prolific Scott Hogan, who has almost as many goals as Gayle. Hmm, might have to keep an eye on him I’m afraid Brentford fans.
The immediate reduction of margin meant the remainder of the game was played with a sense of cautious professionalism. Perez fired narrowly wide twice and tested the keeper with a fizzing drive, and Brentford consistently looked to counter, but were often thwarted by Karl Darlow’s excellent marshalling of his box. I particularly enjoyed him steaming off his line to claim a corner well towards the edge of the 18 yard box. Confidence.
Despite Shelvey’s obvious MOM showing this was a strong team performance. Clark grows in confidence each game, Perez looked far better playing off Gayle and Atsu created problems throughout, with one vicious strike going just over.
If a moment encapsulates this recent Renaissance period though, it has to be the standing ovation afforded the previously maligned Gouffran as he was subbed after falling victim to the ref’s novel approach to arbitrary bookings.
I found out later that Gouffran has started all but three games this season – our three defeats. His role in this campaign looks set to be an unexpectedly full and positive one, and fair play to him, a Frenchman who seems to be in possession of the right attitude.
Norwich remained above us they turned out to be the only other side in the top 6 to win this weekend, meaning we find ourselves finally the right side of the promotion line. Let’s hope it’s a line we never cross again this season.
With many tough games out of the way and belief and confidence free-flowing, we have every right to feel good about the future. Mint.
Here are the match stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle: Clark 11, Gayle 16,49
Brentford: Hogan 52
Possession was Brentford 48 % Newcastle 52%
Total shots were Brentford 7 Newcastle 15
Shots on target were Brentford 2 Newcastle 6
Corners were Brentford 5 Newcastle 5
Newcastle starting 11:
Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles (Hanley 60), Dummett, Atsu (Yedlin 72), Gouffran (Lazaar 84), Colback, Shelvey, Perez, Gayle
Sels, Hayden, Mitrovic, Diame
Referee: Simon Hooper