Wow, what an incredible day, as we ascended to the temporary heights of fourth place, an early season anomaly that we would love to dream of but in reality is more of a positive sign towards a potential top half finish, than any serious contemplation of the far-off concept of the Champions League.

I would like to apologise at this stage for the above realistic assessment to any venomous little troll perusing this page from the perception of some other team, looking for evidence to store in the dog-eared, well-thumbed folder of how deluded Newcastle fans are.

If it’s myth enhancement you’re after, here’s one for you…

The Premier League is the biggest and best league in the world.

Respect to the hardy contingent of 1,400 Stoke fans that filled less than half the away end today, but outside of that core I’m afraid you’re a bit of a waste of top flight time. That very same section was packed to the rafters last season by the fans of Leeds, Ipswich, Derby and Birmingham, many of whom didn’t have the luxury of a Saturday 3pm kick off to plan the best away trip in the entire country (I’m sorry but I’ve been to all your grounds and it is) and it may be that the punishing existence forced upon the mid-table dwellers of this league has crushed a lot of spirit there.

Stoke seemingly expected to win, as long-term regulars of the division we exited for a single solitary year, so it must have surprised them a smudgy tad to be goggle faced bystanders for the entire first half. United made the breakthrough in the twentieth minute after a steady opening as the magnificent Matt Ritchie scorched an inswinging cross over for Christian Atsu to thump in at the far post, his first Premier League goal and no less than we deserved.

The rest of a dominant first half was more notable for what didn’t happen, as United’s failure to extend the lead to an insurmountable margin left the paranoid among us anticipating the inevitable bitten backside.

Surely against his former employers with a point to prove, Joselu was a decent bet for a goal today. When Atsu’s cross found him in a prime lead doubling position he took the inexplicable option of swinging a clumsy left foot at an easy right foot finish and he missed. Moments later, DeAndre Yedlin’s speculative shot deflected fortunately into the Spanish striker’s path with time to spare. He gave Butland the half chance he needed to produce an excellent block. Thirdly, within thirty seconds of the second half being kicked off (by Stoke) a fine pass by Perez was controlled well by Joselu to present an excellent shooting chance that was blazed horribly over the bar. You started to worry that this might cost us.

Minutes later, all this cost us.

Stoke as a team are very much in the mould of their manager, with a tendency for toughness that can easily transgress into mindless thuggery. However, should one cough, splutter or breath heavily while near one of their number they will instantly and shamelessly collapse, grabbing for the ball with a sense of entitlement reminiscent of an 80s perm and a ‘Sharp’ embossed Man Utd shirt.

Xherdan Shaqiri is the worst example of this, huffing and chugging around the pitch like an asthmatic prop forward in a heavy backpack, dropping to the ground when touched, flicked or frowned at on what is a transparent excuse to have a puff, pant and lie down.

It should have come as a surprise to no one that it was this plump wee cheatster that pinched Stoke an ill-deserved equaliser, smashing in an admittedly wicked effort from the edge of the box.

There was real concern that it could have unraveled here, as Mame Diouf’s subsequent header was all but in before Rob Elliot appeared from nowhere to produce a save that looked magnificently Gordon Banks from my seat in the Gallowgate.

Fortunately, United produced a swift response, as Perez smashed in despite being well flagged offside, before a swift counter saw the same bloke unleash Atsu on goal. As the Ghanaian looked to double his tally a villainous mob of thuggish Stoke defenders closed in and hacked the ball away from the spiralling Atsu. Replays suggested that our bloke took a touch too many, allowing Zouma to nip in with a goal saving tackle, but this didn’t stop full force fury being directed at a referee having a bit of a shocker.

The ref felt the full brunt of this disdain at a subsequent corner, as Jamaal Lascelles took him to task for his dithering incompetence. When Ritchie delivered the ball, our captain seemed to be fuelled by pure anger and fury as he thundered in to head his second winner in a week, adding further evidence to his growing dossier against zonal marking.

The resultant time was just about negotiated despite some latter stage sloppiness presenting Stoke with a couple of squandered chances.

Just 31 points to go then, fortunately there’s more than enough average teams to take them off.

We are very lucky that we have Rafa, and whoever has brought this lot together, as the impeccable Mikel Merino stood out once more among a slickly functioning midfield boosted as ever by the industrious efforts of the ever excellent Ritchie.

The attitude exemplified by Lascelles may just see a sense of spirit that is too much for many a soulless collective of overpriced payday seekers.

Welcome to the Premier League, let’s have it.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 2 Stoke 1


Newcastle: Atsu 19, Lascelles 68

Stoke: Shaqiri 57

Possession was Stoke 58% Newcastle 42%

Total shots were  Stoke 10 Newcastle 16

Shots on target were Stoke  13 Newcastle 14

Corners were  Stoke 5 Newcastle 7

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Newcastle United:

Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba, Ritchie, Hayden (Shelvey 69), Merino, Atsu, Perez (Diame 86), Joselu (Gayle 78)

Unused Subs:

Woodman, Murphy, Manquillo, Lejeune

Crowd: 51,795 (approx 1,500 Stoke)

(Phil Thompson admits he could have been wrong about Newcastle players – Read Here)

(Read what Rafa Benitez had to say after beating Stoke Here)

(Alan Shearer a very happy man after Newcastle went top four – Read it Here)

(The instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to win over Stoke – Here)

(Your Newcastle v Stoke player ratings Here)

(Mark Hughes’ comments Here – he was watching a different game!)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here

  • Leazes Ender

    The bowl has been well and truly licked clean.

    • Andy Mac

      I hesitate to ask which Bowl ?

      • Leazes Ender

        Toilet bowl

        • Andy Mac

          I had an idea ! 🙄

  • Steve Pearce

    Deluded? Not when the God Of Football has delivered such a cushy fixture list.

    We are where we are because of one man – the best manager in our history. I would love to sit down and talk with Rafa and I would ask him one question – “How long have you craved the Newcastle job?” I think the answer could well have been “Since I left Liverpool”. Rafa knew what the fans were like and knew both the high levels of our passion and expectations. He stayed with us throughout relegation, won the Championship and despite the owner’s financial limitations has assembled a young team who play the way with the organisation that he is a past master at. We play to a system of an opening cautious assessment in the first ten minutes followed by a gradual unleashing of finely controlled aggression and control the game until the goals start to flow. I sometimes wonder if Rafa is a chess player as he seems adept at moving his pieces in such a way as to control the game and its outcome. So with him at the helm ANYTHING is possible – although I’d settle for the FA cup as that would be a fitting reward for a man of such talent, dignity and genuine love for his club and its city.

    • nevfur

      I would definitely settle for that lol and it would cost Ashley a few quid too although he would probably take it out of Rafas summer transfer fund

  • Sugarbug

    “with a tendency for toughness that can easily transgress into mindless thuggery”, “I’m afraid Stoke City are a bit of a waste of top flight time” & “Just 31 points to go then, fortunately there’s more than enough average teams to take them off.” What an arrogant little man you are. 5 games played and you’re looking down your nose at Stoke City, you have a long way to go and a recent history of not making it count.

    • Andy Mac

      Got to bear in mind some of the comments emanating from “Oatcake” before the game ! Some Stoke fans thinking all they had to do was turn up.

      PS Wouldnt mind an oatcake or two with Sunday brunch, Can you get them anywhere other than Potteries ?

      • Sugarbug

        Fair enough, I’m often annoyed by their ‘Stirrings’ pre-match. Don’t get me wrong I’d like Newcastle to win the league, anyone outside the golden six doing well gives us all hope!

        If your board don’t scare Rafa off.

        I can get Oatcakes as far North as Manchester, I wish you luck in your search.

    • kumzynufc

      Personally I don’t agree with this article. Stoke are in the PL because they deserve to be and are a decent side but since the season started, nufc and their fans have had to listen to the type of arrogance of this article from opposition fans (including Stoke fans) thinking Nufc will rollover and be an easy 3 points. Am sorry but outside the top 6 teams, the rest of the league is average and am including Newcastle in that.

    • Leazes Ender

      I can only apologise on behalf of some United fans….. not the idiots,.

    • East Durham Mag

      Got to agree with Andy Mac about a few of the comments from a small number of your fans. This article though shows Stoke City no respect and is total drivel. As we aren’t in the same league as our old friends Aston Villa the writer appears to be trying to upset Stoke fans. Take it with a pinch of salt. Good luck for the rest of the season (apart from the return game)

    • Mal

      This article is a disgrace and doesn’t reflect the views of many of our fans. Unfortunately some of the people who write articles on this website do get ahead of themselves and forget we are only 5 games in.

  • Jimblag23

    Atsu really should have scored that one on one, how he ended up with the ball stuck in his feet I don’t know.
    Luckily Jamaal was on hand to smash it home.

  • Andy Mac

    “it may be that the punishing existence forced upon the mid-table dwellers of this league has crushed a lot of spirit there”

    Hark back to the Pardwho, McWally and Pinocchio era and we were pretty much dispirited too. Its the hope that drives fans forward, the lack of any is what stops them in their tracks.

    • Leazes Ender

      Thank goodness for the Rafalution….

      • Andy Mac

        What do you want under Fatman Leazes ? No hope or some hope ?

  • Alan Pardew

    We took the lead and if it wasn’t for exuberance at the end, trying to get a second and the crowd urging us on and all getting a little bit carried away, we would have a really big victory

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    I would take Mid-table right now were it offered to us so calling Stoke for that is a bit daft.
    I can understand where that whole thing about being Mid-table could be seen as being completely boring due to what has happened in English Football.
    If the Premier League is the best in the World then it doesn’t say much for the rest of Football at large.

    The Premier League has become the “Poster Boy” for everything that is wrong with Football in the modern era.
    Ironically it has very little to do with the English other than English people are the spectators of it !
    It has become nothing more than a showcase for foreign talent with most English players plying their trade in the lower leagues.

    Money has absolutely ruined the game and acts as a barometer to show up the disparity between the haves and the have not’s.
    Every season more or less guarantees who the so called “Top Four” are going to be with the odd anomaly finding their way into that pack but it’s few and far between.
    Leicester City being the relief from the monotony of what The Premier League has become.

    How often do you see what you would call entertaining games in The Premiership ?
    The players are now monitored with their diets and are trained like athletes so they look like Rugby players and they just cancel each other out.
    The odd time you will see an exciting game but they are in the minority of what is pretty turgid stuff to watch for the most part !
    So much money is at stake on a lot of the games that players are terrified to play which also feeds into the mix.
    Even Arsenal’s fans appear to be sick of finishing fourth because although it guarantees a Champions League berth what have you actually won ?
    Last season being the exception for them so in a daft way that broke up the monotony of the situation.

    • Danimal

      Agreed. The Premier League is eating itself.

  • lukegte

    Stoke City have come on leaps and bounds over recent years, and their fans are just as entitled as those of any other club to feel their place in the Premier League is warranted and that they too should be able to compete.

    Given the contemptuous and unfounded bile NUFC fans have to put up with, you’d think you’d be bigger than this. How very pompous and sanctimonious.

  • Sumit Sengupta

    Just 3 wins in a row. There’s a long way to go.

  • Malcolm Fisher

    A little biased are we, and viciously vitriolic is uncalled for. They were not nearly as bad as you make out.