Newcastle 2 West Ham 4 – It’s not how you start it’s how you finish
The starting line-up was unfortunately as deja vu inducing as expected, Joe Willock’s signing predictably being made too late to include in the squad for today (always finding a way to tarnish that silver lining).
However, I was cautiously optimistic going into this match, based on our reasonably good record against West Ham, even managing to do the double on them last season.
The first few minutes had my hopes frayed, having conceded a few corners in the opening minutes, a goal line clearance in the first 90 seconds always bodes well…
Two minutes later though, a link-up we’ll hope to see all season – ASM to Wilson and we’re 1-0 up straight away.
After a shaky first couple of minutes, we did very well to press and keep the pressure on West Ham, Hayden in particular looking very aggressive. Pretty even game for a while, but as VAR rules have changed, it’s pretty much our luck that we will be one of the teams to lose out from it. Soucek just onside to nudge a cross home.
Following on from that, not much to split the two teams, with decent chances either side – if only that cheeky Wilson backheel had gone in! Good pressure throughout the first half led to a brilliant Ritchie cross being headed in by Murphy, having us ahead 2-1 at the break.
Around ten minutes after the break following another pretty even start, a great cross from Antonio left Benrahma with an easy nod in – after a clear foul on ASM from Rice it must be said, but of course nothing given.
Not a few moments later and almost a repeat of the last time we met, Creswell almost scoring an own goal, followed by some more absolute ASM wizardry that almost had us taking the lead again.
After all the positivity, cue a dodgy penalty (obviously VAR’s not going to rule anything out in our favour) followed by a good save from Woodman, then a rebound goal from Soucek.
Push forward for an equaliser – cue counter attack – cue goal.
I will say, was interesting to see Shelvey being withdrawn for Fraser, either he’s not fully fit or maybe (we hope) he’s not the golden boy anymore. Following the fourth goal, we seemed to retreat and were unable to muster up any sort of fightback, with only a few late scrappy attempts, ending the match on a disappointing note.
Overall, I think once we have our first choice players that didn’t feature today back (primarily Lascelles + Willock) and if we can get a a couple more reinforcements in, ideally a young CB and a back-up striker, though I wouldn’t turn down another midfielder to avoid having to see Hendrick on the bench again…I think we should be able to improve on defensive issues and build on some very promising attacking work.
Here’s to another lower mid-table finish…
Here are my main three points to take from the match:
ASM + Wilson= chances
Any time we can start these two together in a game, we can stay in games and we’ll always have a chance. It’s just a matter of keeping them both fit and consistent.
Much improved squad members
Watching this match, it looks as though several of our squad members are improving thoroughly. Ritchie and Murphy are secure in their wing-back roles, Almiron looks far more assured and less rushed than the previous season, and ASM dropped off at times to dictate the play to great effect.
Dare I say it, even Shelvey looked much improved against some of his sluggish performances we were forced to watch last season out. Maybe we’ve had a competent coach in pre-season (hint, it’s not Bruce.)
Wilting under pressure
After a very impressive first half and some great individual performances, after a few mishaps and unlucky moments, you could pretty much see the confidence drain out of the team.
Passing around the back with five minutes to go and two goals down is not the way to get anything back. We need some more mental strength in the squad to overcome moments of adversity such as these.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 West Ham 4 – Sunday 15 August 2pm
Wilson 5, Murphy 40
Cresswell 18, Benrahma 53, Soucek 63, Antonio 66
Possession was West Ham 53% Newcastle 47%
Total shots were West Ham 18 Newcastle 17
Shots on target were West Ham 9 Newcastle 3
Corners were West Ham 6 Newcastle 7
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Woodman, Murphy, Krafth (Sean Longstaff 84), Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie, Shelvey (Fraser 70), Hayden, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Wilson (Joelinton 85)
Gillespie, Gayle, Schar, Lascelles, Lewis, Hendrick
Crowd: 50,673 (3,000 West Ham)
(Newcastle 2 West Ham 4 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Sunday’s demoralising defeat – Read HERE)
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