Really pleased as Newcastle United pair work their way back in and save the day
Strange one this.
Newcastle under Bruce really guarantee nothing, as we have the personnel to gain a decent result like the Everton one, but also the organisational approach to serve up a sh.tshow like the Brighton debacle or the Chelsea non-effort.
Regardless of that, I would have expected to win this, with West Brom and Fulham seemingly having come up with no prospect of maintaining a challenge to stay in the Premier League.
Then, of course, came covid, ravaging the squad to an extent that didn’t become apparent until the team was announced. There was alarm about Clark being the only fit centre half and the youth goalie on the bench. Still, there was enough attacking potential out there to breed a bit of confidence. You just don’t know with Newcastle though…
It was a pleasant surprise then, to notch the opener after 20 seconds, from the opposition’s kick off. A hopeless miskick from Ivanovic allowed Wilson to feed Joelinton and his exquisite pass through the Baggies desperate defending allowed the unmarked Almiron to bang in a straightforward finish.
This set the scene for a comfortable afternoon. With the visitors suffering from fragile confidence there was a real opportunity to get at them, bank three points early and conserve a bit of energy for the busy Christmas period. Enter the ‘conservative’ version of Newcastle United.
It was obvious that Almiron’s pace was terrifying West Brom, with his two runs on goal bringing slightly hopeful efforts that the keeper dealt with comfortably. However, these breaks were kept to a minimum as United sat back and looked to counter, with the usual passes from attacking positions ending up at the feet of Darlow.
The first half was fairly uneventful, until the final five minutes or so, when West Brom decided to accept the invitation to boss the game. The dangerous Conor Gallagher should have equalised when firing through a crowded box, but shot wide. After a string of corners, we were hanging on to take the early advantage into half time.
It soon became apparent that the damage had been done second half. West Brom could and likely would have crumbled under pressure, but they were gradually galvanising themselves, as they were allowed more and more of the ball. They were level within five minutes of the restart, as Matt Phillips’ looping cross caught Lewis switching off and allowed Darnell Furlong to thunder in and smash an unstoppable volley into Darlow’s bottom corner.
Bruce must take the blame for the lack of impetus that allowed Albion back into the game, which is a fact the pundits will just have to deal with. Equally, those with a lower opinion of our manager will need to accept that his subsequent changes altered the momentum and ultimately secured the win.
It had a hint of being one of those things when Dwight Gayle emerged from the bench, 18 months after hitting 20+ Championship goals for West Brom and having constantly been linked with a return to the Hawthorns since. Baggies fans were probably on edge enough about the prospect of the old ex-player curse, not helped when Phillips had to clear a goalbound header off the line within moments of Gayle’s arrival.
Bruce turned the momentum entirely United’s way with the introduction of a second former Albion loanee from the bench. Jacob Murphy had been on the field for about two minutes when he hit a cross reminiscent of prime Nobby Solano, picking out Gayle between two defenders. The bullet header flew neatly into the “postage stamp” area of the top corner and relief abounded among the home-based Tyneside audience, while I’d imagine the households of the Black Country experienced a few kicked cats, wry smiles and screams of “I knew it would be him!” at bemused wives.
The final quarter of this game was, dare I say it, exciting. The buzz of having two goal scorers in and around the box was something that felt utterly foreign, and Wilson and Gayle seemed to display the signs of an instant partnership. With Joelinton in a more appropriate position behind them, Carroll on the bench as an option and ASM still to return from injury, suddenly you realise we do have a degree of firepower. Wilson’s Alan Shearer impression keeping the ball in the corner to run down six minutes of injury time (ridiculous) will only have served to endear him more among the support.
With two more promoted teams, followed by a Championship opponent, Bruce should have realised there is a clear case to be made for playing on the front foot. If he utilises his squad properly and wins these matches, it would buy some much needed breathing space for the subsequent unpleasantness of Man City and Liverpool within a couple of days of Christmas, followed by a nailed on FA Cup exit at the Emirates.
If we attempt to defend and allow these teams on to us, the league position in the new year might not be as jolly as the commentators gleefully telling us “Newcastle are 4 points off European places” seem to think it looks. If people were as immersed in things as we all are, they would realise that this kind of tease is exactly what Newcastle United do before a trademark incompetent implosion sends them firmly back in the other direction.
A couple of positives to end on. Really pleased for Murphy and Gayle for working their way back into the picture and saving the day here, and special mention to Isaac Hayden for playing an absolute blinder at centre half, having spent over a week bed bound with the virus apparently. Wider than that, given the impact the virus seems to have had, I think credit is due to everyone at the club who has managed the outbreak, and I would include in that the policy of not revealing who had been impacted, which would only have served to inform the opposition and spread hysteria.
Let’s hope the positives continue to Elland Road, a venue many would have been buzzing to steam off to if it wasn’t for this miserable business. Merry Christmas all.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Saturday 12 December 3pm
Almiron 1, Gayle 82
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was West Brom 54% (57%) Newcastle 46% (43%)
Total shots were West Brom 13 (9) Newcastle 12 (6)
Shots on target were West Brom 3 (1) Newcastle 7 (4)
Corners were West Brom 3 (2) Newcastle 4 (2)
Referee: Darren England
Darlow, Krafth (Murphy 80), Hayden, Clark, Lewis (Gayle 69), Shelvey, S Longstaff, Ritchie, Almiron (Yedlin 86), Joelinton, Wilson
Langley, M Longstaff, Carroll, Hendrick
(After stating virus cases would stay confidential, Steve Bruce now praises Newcastle star who bounced back – Read HERE)
(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Slaven Bilic says he is hurting after Newcastle: ‘They put one cross in and they scored the winner’ – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s victory – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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