Writer Kevin Christie believes that with a few key Mike Ashley additions, ‘Newcastle aren’t too far off being a very impressive side’ –
Another late late show, as Newcastle picked up the happy knack of scoring late winning goals last spring and have now pulled the rabbit out of the hat twice more at St James’ Park in recent weeks with last-gasp winners against Villa and Palace.
The limitations of Alan Pardew’s side are obvious, Cissé’s winner somewhat unbelievably being the first time that Newcastle have even scored a goal without having Loic Rémy in the side – but what is also clear is that they have a great spirit and always keep fighting right to the end.
Mike Ashley made a rare appearance at the match on Saturday and surely he can see for himself that with a few key additions, Newcastle aren’t too far off being a very impressive side.
Cissé on the way up?
Papiss Cissé’s injury time winner was his first goal from open play in the Premier League for nearly 26 hours of action – stretching all the way back to his last-gasp strike in the 1-0 win over Fulham last April. Almost a year on from the ecstasy and euphoria of that Gallowgate End winner, Cissé repeated the trick against Palace and now all eyes will be on Newcastle’s #9 to see whether he can regain some semblance of his old form.
Having endured a torrid time for the best part of two seasons, the Senegalese frontman may just be turning the corner. While he missed a raft of chances before grabbing the decisive goal against Palace, he looked sharper than he has done for some time. As anyone who saw his fantastic strikes against Chelsea, Swansea and Liverpool at the end of the 2011/12 season knows, Cissé is an instinctive finisher and is at his best when he trusts his intuition. It remains to be seen whether he returns to his ponderous worst, or whether he can kick on from here, but the signs are promising.
De Jong On The Way Out?
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Luuk De Jong. The Dutchman has made a slow start to his career on Tyneside having arrived on a short-term loan deal in January. Under-used at Borussia Monchengladbach, De Jong struggled for form and fitness in his first few weeks at the club but made telling contributions in the wins over both Aston Villa and Hull and he looked to be on the up. Now, following two sluggish and listless performances against two of the league’s weaker sides, Fulham and Palace, De Jong is running out of time to make an impression.
Newcastle’s face both Merseyside clubs as well as Man Utd and Arsenal in their last eight games, so, if he is selected, he may well find it tough going. With Loic Rémy close to a return following a short injury lay-off and Papiss Cissé breaking his duck against Tony Pulis’ side, De Jong may not get too many more chances and the Dutch striker may well need a miracle if he still harbours hopes of earning a permanent move – especially seeing as long-time Newcastle target Bafetimbi Gomis will be available on a free from Lyon this summer.
Who’s Pulling The Strings?
This marked the second match of Alan Pardew’s three game stadium ban. Last week John Carver admitted that he was in touch with the manager a couple of times during the defeat at Fulham, and the pair were surely in contact again during Saturday’s win, but it’s curious to wonder whether Carver followed out his instructions to the letter.
It may have taken a while for his influence to finally have a telling impact but there is no doubt that the introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa swung the match in Newcastle’s favour. For all his obvious talents, Alan Pardew is often reluctant to trust Ben Arfa and frequently leaves it very late to introduce him in the games where he does throw him into the fray. Here however, the Frenchman made his entrance just before the hour mark and accordingly had enough time to make a difference – ultimately making a telling contribution by providing the assist for Cissé’s header. Pardew may well have ordered the switch but game-changing substitutions are not his strong point and it’s tempting to think that Carver may well have been the one to make the call.
As Good As It Gets
With Yohan Cabaye gone and the team looking comfortable in mid-table, it’s tempting to wonder what, if anything, Newcastle have left to play for this season. In the grand scheme of things, turning a 0-0 stalemate into a 1-0 win probably won’t really make a difference to the overall landscape of Newcastle’s season but try telling that to Papiss Cissé or the 50,000+ fans who ecstatically cheered his goal, just as they did when Loic Rémy struck to defeat Aston Villa in the dying seconds a few weeks ago.
Sure, we may not win a trophy any time soon and are a long way off challenging for top honours but, every now and again, we do have our days in the sun and we do get the rub of the green. Those are the days to cherish and, in the absence of silverware, it’s the memories of those euphoric last-gasp winners that we will cling to.