‘This game was good, I defy anyone to say otherwise’ – West Ham 0 Newcastle 2
West Ham 0 Newcastle 2 – Saturday 12 September 8pm
Wow, finally. Is it really 48 days since last season finally, blessedly ended?
So here we are again, all set to go after the miserable evisceration of hope that was the non-takeover, there was an unexpected belated rush of optimism as the signings of Wilson, Fraser and Lewis suddenly made our punctured team look a bit more likely to set out on a half-decent attempt at a football season instead of the miserable display of pointlessness we seemed set on collision course with.
Ironically, we were starting out against London Newcastle, the team with a similar history of suffering for a dedicated support who are currently suffering the oppression of hated, out of touch owners operating their community club as a botched business effort.
It all sounds horribly familiar, except West Ham had to go into the season without the relative boost of any new signings, with their only addition being Tomas Soucek, who was already there on loan. With players slagging the club off, an air of tangible unrest and David Moyes well on course for pre-Halloween unemployment, this may have been a great time to visit the London Stadium.
It could have gone horribly wrong, as Andy Carroll started the match in danger of setting an unbreakable record, smashing into Soucek with an elbow-led jump having given it a good five seconds to weigh up the tone of the game. VAR had a look, but in fairness Soucek had pretty much ran into the already soaring AC. Calm down.
This was fortunate as Carroll had his most active, influential game for United since his return, thriving in the partnership with the highly impressive Wilson as the first half was largely dominated.
Wilson headed narrowly wide from Jamal Lewis’ searing run and cross after only a few minutes. Half chances continued to flow in a fashion that was unknown last season; Fernandez’ header was blocked by Fabianski on the line, Carroll misjudged his own header to loop over, Shelvey fired viciously into the side netting and Wilson went close on numerous occasions as he gave us an outlet that had been glaringly amiss since Salomon Rondon followed Rafa to China.
This dominance was underpinned by a front footed, attacking style of play that seems to suggest someone at the club has found some videos of Keegan’s team of the 90s while rifling through the cupboards looking for something of emotional significance to desecrate or exploit. This game was good, I defy anyone to say otherwise, and hopefully in a way that may set up for the season ahead, as opposed to the “let’s play well for one game then get back to normal” false dawn at Bournemouth.
It almost went terribly wrong though as West Ham, having been nowhere in the first half, suddenly crammed all of their chances into about three minutes of pressure before half time. Antonio fired at Darlow, who held well, then Fornals hit the bar and Soucek headed just over as we threatened to undo all the good work by going all Newcastle.
This didn’t happen though, and within minutes of the restart the pressure was finally converted. Manquillo went steaming down the right and his attempted cross deflected up off Fornals. Hendrick headed on neatly for Wilson to stretch his foot high to poke in (the kind of dirty stud showing that was later decried by soft tackling fair play enthusiast Graeme Souness). VAR wasn’t saving West Ham and our striker had the massive boost of a debut goal.
West Ham’s only moment of note in the second half was to whinge for a penalty when a strike was pelted at the side of Hendrick’s chest. This may have been one of the incidents (along with Carroll being Carroll) that Old Mother Moyes chose to blether and mither about after the game when he had the neck, cheek and temerity to actually blame the referee for his listless side’s no show.
ASM, having been kicked about all night, leathered a vicious effort just over before being withdrawn to the mercy of his knees and ankles. Almiron replaced him and having that kind of pace unleashed in the final quarter of games can destroy a tiring opposition. It was Miggy’s probing run that opened up the Hammers defence, allowing him to square it for Hendrick to pick his spot with a deft finish into the top corner. Two debutants scoring in the same game for the first time in 31 years (I’ll let you look it up).
Fair play to Hendrick, who was very much a muted signing in a chaotic close season, but a goal, an assist and a solid all round performance will have won a few people over. Massive credit to Chas Chandler for bringing him to the North East.
I would reiterate that this was a great time to play West Ham, rolling them over when they are clearly in a state of unrest and disarray. They look absolutely bereft, with an ominous fixture list ahead that Sky were ever so keen to ram down the throats of disappointed Irons fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if they rock up at St James for the return game with a different manager, a couple of additions and a different attitude altogether. I would also not be surprised if they fail to regenerate adequately enough to stay in the Premier League this time.
A few days ago I would have said it was an essential part of this game, to try and plunge someone else into relegation bother as part of the quest to find three teams worse than us. It may be an early over reaction that is not untypical of NUFC fans ( a one word message I got at full time from a mate read “Europe?”) but the addition of the recent signings and the encouraging display geared towards the spearhead of Wilson has maybe allowed us to dream of a non-turgid season.
The fine margins are likely to be the difference. If Andy Carroll could stay fit and play to this standard every game he would be one of the league’s biggest assets. I think we can all guess the likelihood of this happening. Although there are attacking options available, with Fraser still not match fit and Almiron and Joelinton coming off the bench, there remains a lot of pressure on Wilson to lead the line every week. If Gayle can come back strong from his injury he could be a valuable part of the squad.
As always, there will be naysayers, but I enjoyed this game on many levels and starting with an away win for the first time in 13 years is not a bad way to spend a Saturday night. Let’s see what happens eh?
Stats from BBC Sport:
West Ham 0 Newcastle 2 – Saturday 12 September 8pm
Wilson 56, Hendrick 87
Possession was West Ham 58% Newcastle 42%
Total shots were West Ham 15 Newcastle 15
Shots on target were West Ham 3 Newcastle 2
Corners were West Ham 8 Newcastle 7
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Darlow, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lewis, Shelvey, Hayden, Hendrick, Saint-Maximin (Joelinton 75), Wilson (Almiron 85), Carroll (Sean Longstaff 88)
Gillespie, Ritchie, Krafth, Fraser
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to West Ham 0 Newcastle 2 – Read HERE)
(David Moyes unhappy in defeat to Newcastle ‘Didn’t particularly think it was officiated well tonight…’ – Read HERE)
(Steve Bruce gives his reaction to the victory – Read HERE)
(West Ham 0 Newcastle 2 – Watch official match highlights HERE including 2 quality goals)
(Alan Shearer gives his reaction to Newcastle’s opening night victory – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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