Newcastle United 1 – 0 Norwich
Sunday 18 March 2012 4pm
Newcastle United 1 (Cissé 11)
Alan Pardew “We needed a win and we had an injury crisis. We weren’t firing on all cylinders, had eight players injured and had to grind it out.
We have finishers on the pitch and that helps. Cisse showed what he’s about today, he could have had a hat-trick.
We have now reset our goals and we’re going for the Europa League”.
A hard fought but deserved one goal win for United as despite an on paper attacking line-up, Newcastle were made to defend for long spells.
A flat pre-match feeling was added to by a crowd of under forty eight thousand, only two weeks before tickets for the mackem match were like gold dust.
Papiss Cissé was at the sharp end of all United’s best attacks and could have had a first-half hat-trick as Ruddy denied him either side of what proved to be the winning goal.
Firstly Cabaye’s excellent long ball sent the Senegalese striker clear only for his attempted chip to be countered by the Norwich keeper, then later Jonas slipped in an exquisite ball behind the defender which Cissé had saved by the onrushing Ruddy.
In between, Papiss Cissé put away by far the hardest chance of the three as on ten minutes Gutierrez got space on the left and his low cross was volleyed in form ten yards with the outside of Cissé’s right boot.
Alan Pardew had sprung a few surprises as he shuffled his pack, Jonas dropping to left back with Cabaye in front of him. Then in the middle you had Guthrie and Perch forming an alternative partnership asthe manager went with an attacking formation of Ben Arfa on the right with Ba dropping in behind his Senegalese team-mate.
Overall Newcastle deserved to win but had to soak up significant Norwich possession as the visitors played keep-ball pretty well but were handicapped by the negative of playing only one ‘hard working’ striker in Morison.
In terms of chances Newcastle also deserved the win as Krul, particularly in the second-half, did all the average and not so average keeping with his usual authority. In truth though he had maybe two or three tricky efforts which he had to go the extra yard for and he thoroughly earned his clean sheet.
As well as the two Cissé saves, Ruddy made blinding stops from Cabaye, Ba and Ben Arfa as he kept his side in the game.
When Newcastle did manage to free the ball up on relatively rare occasions they looked dangerous with Ben Arfa carrying the ball well and Ba & Cissé showing good movement.
The trouble is though that at the moment whatever formation Pardew plays it struggles to get on top of the opposition apart from in limited spells.
There is something lacking and some might argue about different formations but I think we are talking about players who struggle to match their colleagues.
Guthrie regularly lost the ball and tired quickly, Simpson struggled throughout the match, while maybe this angle is best summed up by Norwich marking everybody but Williamson and then looking to put pressure on the ever anxious looking centre-back whenever he had the ball.
Whatever weaknesses the team carried, they all put in the effort that left them only two points behind fifth placed Chelsea, Shola perhaps deserving a mention as he gave a nice little cameo as a late substitute, even skinning the left-back at one point!
Newcastle United: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa (Davide Santon 63), Danny Guthrie (Dan Gosling 76), James Perch, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 69)
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Ryan Donaldson
Norwich City: John Ruddy, Kyle Naughton, Elliott Ward (c), Zak Whitbread, Adam Drury (Wes Hoolahan 82), Elliott Bennett, Andrew Surman, David Fox, Jonny Howson (Grant Holt 77), Anthony Pilkington (Russell Martin 85), Steve Morison
Subs not used: Jed Steer, Andrew Crofts, Bradley Johnson, Simeon Jackson
Referee: Phil Dowd
Attendance: 47,833 (1,904 Visitors)
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