Cast your minds back to New Year’s Day 2015 and  Newcastle United were playing Burnley at home.

Alan Pardew had left for Crystal Palace and John Carver was in charge, the game ending 3-3.

However, what was significant about this match, was that after almost two years, Newcastle United at last scored from a corner, Steven Taylor achieving the impossible…

Before this ground breaking achievement, the previous one was against Norwich City on the 23 November 2013 (scored by Remy) and before that it was back in 2011.

Now though, Newcastle United look a very different beast when it comes to scoring from corners and set-pieces in general.

So far this season, Jamaal Lascelles has scored two vital winners from corners and last season Newcastle scored a Championship high of 24 goals from set-pieces. Rafa clearly identified this as a major weakness and sought about rectifying it – so far it is paying great dividends.

The tactics themselves are not complicated, combining excellent delivery from (usually) Ritchie into good areas of the box and players attacking the ball, often wanting it more than their opponents.

Rarely this season have we played short corners, as whenever we have, we have been hit on the counter-attack. Thinking about last season, we lost 3-1 at home to Fulham and I’m pretty sure all of Fulham’s goals came from counter-attacks from us playing short corners!

Both Clark and Lascelles are very capable headers of the ball and Ritchie consistently delivers the ball into areas, in which they can attack the ball and potentially score. West Brom have relied on having big centre backs throwing themselves at excellent Chris Brunt deliveries for years, helping them to usually finish comfortably mid-table.

When Newcastle have a corner now, you can sense with the crowd a genuine sense of excitement that we might score, or at least have the chance of doing so.

Unlike those dark days under Alan Pardew, where Cabaye would chip the ball back post to Williamson who was then expected to knock it back into the centre for our strikers to score, we must have tried this tactic for at least 400 corners and it never worked. By the end, when Newcastle were given a corner, everyone in the crowd knew it would come to nothing.

Hopefully however, those days are long behind us and we can look forward to a season where Newcastle United for the first time in a long while are actually a constant threat from set-pieces – so long as Ritchie keeps delivering the money balls into the box and the lads attack them, then I’m very confident that we will.

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  • mentalman

    having players competent in heading the ball is the main difference however a lot more teams are going back to zonal marking which as we’ve seen in the last two games makes a huge difference

    • Alex

      After the last two games, you can bet that opposing managers will adapt any zonal plans against us. If they didn’t, they’d just be asking for trouble from Lascelles.

      If Lascelles becomes marked tighter at set pieces, then I’m sure Rafa will have other options up his sleeve to counteract.

      • mentalman

        if they are going to mark lascelles so closely it’ll leave more space for the other players

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          Brighton will defend corners properly, Dunk is a good defender who is used to the championship where defending corners is a disciplined affair.

          The key will be for Lacelles to drift out, hopefully taking Dunk with him and Clark, Mitro or Joselu to attack the ball.

          I have more hope of this happening against Liverpool.

          • mentalman

            thought mitro was still banned

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            You’re right, it seems ages ago, bleeding international break, throws me all out of sinc.

    • Steve Smith

      Zonal marking isn’t the problem. The defender not defending his zone is.

      • Paul Busby

        You can see the players ball watching. It’s kids stuff.

        • mentalman

          Zonal marking has never really been that successful and thats why it all but disappeared from the English game, it does however seem to be creeping back in

          • Steve Smith

            It’s successful in most of the big European teams. It’s just not successful in British football because of the dinosaur coaching.

  • Steve Pearce

    I can remember Lauren Robert scoring straight from his corner kick on more than one occasion and I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Ritchie does that too!

    • mentalman

      shelvey has come close a couple of times recently

  • ToonNL

    Pardew’s shocking inflexibility still baffles me to this day. Years of Willo flailing about getting nowhere and not a hint of change.

    Seeing him comment on the corners is almost enjoyable. Almost as i doubt he really internalizes any recognition of failure

  • Paul Patterson

    That’s because Rafa Benitez is a tactician, Pardew was an egotistical buffoon.