Newcastle 2 West Ham 0 Sunday 24 May 3pm
Goals: Sissoko 54, Jonas 85
It seemed to take an eternity for this day to roll around, but finally it came, the end of a season best forgotten.
The situation was simple: if Hull beat Man Utd we needed a win to stay ahead of them, any other outcome at the KC and we would stay up.
A home game for us against deflated opposition with nothing to play for, and Hull facing one of the most ominous opponents in English football, meant the odds were stacked in our favour. However, the dross that has been served up of late did not instil any confidence in our ability to overcome the Hammers. Anyone showing any optimism was surely more confident in Man Utd doing us a favour than anything we could produce.
It was surely best for everyone that hostilities were put on hold and focus was exclusively on winning this game, so protests were reserved for post-match. Of course just prior to kick-off we faced the massive curve ball of Mike Ashley actually speaking to the media, but that’s a whole other story in itself.
The game today required a performance from United, some actual battle shown to secure the win that would save our worthless hides. The early signs were good as Rivière latched on to a defensive muddle in the first minute to fire across the face of goal. Big performances were required from our players and finally there were people stepping up to the plate. Anita was outstanding in his highly effective midfield partnership with Colback, Dummett was an assured presence restored at left-back and Janmaat provided an excellent attacking outlet.
There can surely be no doubt as to the man of the match today though, as I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Jonas Gutierrez’s final game for Newcastle was also his best.
The Argentine displayed the workrate he has been synonymous with throughout his United career; putting in tackles, tracking back and bustling away at the heart of every attack. After a solid first half hour there were a couple of scares as word got through that a dominant Hull had had two disallowed goals, around the same time Downing was breaking the offside trap to be denied by the onrushing Krul.
The crowd stayed strong though, and the support offered to the team today was first class, with a constant sound and a bustling, raucous atmosphere throughout. Any child attending their first game today would have fell in love with the club the same way so many of us have down the years, and sadly that has surely not been the case on far too many occasions of late.
Half time came and went with no goals, and Newcastle staying in the Premier League. Fortunately, there was no ‘anti’ team talk from Carver and the second half started with the same purpose. Janmaat destroyed the full back to lay on a fine ball for Rivière, which the Frenchman missed altogether when a tap in looked certain. I have to say at this point I was absolutely convinced that this was not to be, we would blow all chances and Hull would win in injury time. Fortunately, Jonas was having none of it.
The run and cross was typical of Gutierrez’ stand out display, but there was still work to be done as Sissoko rose between two defenders to plant a power header past Adrian. The roar was deafening; old school, proper St James’ Park loud in the sort of moment that makes you never want to entertain thoughts of not coming back again. Later on, Match of the Day footage of everyone at the KC Stadium visibly deflating, served to illustrate further the importance of this goal.
With half an hour to go, United never really looked like surrendering their control of the situation. West Ham’s only chance fell to Kevin Nolan, who never looked like scoring his 100th goal or damaging his fine reputation up here, as he screwed it harmlessly wide. Then the Hammers made a right hash of a free-kick, allowing Anita to counter attack with three teammates for company.
With only the keeper to beat though, the Dutchman made a terrible mess of things, with Adrian collecting his weak attempt to play in Cisse.
No matter though, as this miss only paved the way for one of the finest moments at St James’ in recent years. Jonas capped a startling performance by collecting Colback’s pass and driving in from outside the box via a deflection off a defender.
After the incredible struggle Jonas has been through and the commitment he has shown to our club in his time here, there was no more fitting way to seal our survival. The emotion in the explosion of sound was as much in appreciation of the individual journey as the magnitude of the strike. The relief was as obvious as it was welcome.
The post-match protests were vocal and noticeable, though not as well attended as they may have been had all not been so well. Thankfully everyone seemed aware that avoiding relegation and sneaking into 15th place is not a reasonable cause for satisfaction. Ashley now has a free summer to back up his pre-match words. We wait with bated breath.
Finally, to Jonas: Dios acelerar nuestro amigo, y gracias
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 41% Newcastle and 59% West Ham
Total shots was 17 for Newcastle and West Ham 4
Shots on target was Newcastle 4 and West Ham 1
While corners was Newcastle 2 and West Ham 3
(Player ratings totals below from fans so far, add yours and then press submit)
Team: Krul, Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett, Colback, Gutierrez, Anita (Gouffran 89), Sissoko, Riviere, Cisse
Unused Subs: Woodman, Ameobi, Cabella, Ryan Taylor, de Jong, Perez
Ref: Martin Atkinson
Crowd: 52,094 (3,000 Newcastle)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf