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Eddie’s mags, touching distance of the Champions League. Calm down you lot eh?

9 months ago
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Newcastle 4 Brighton 1 – Thursday 18 May 7.30pm

Let’s be honest guys, a lot of emotion exploded around ahead of this one. A very comfortable position in the top four has been rattled by defeat to Arsenal and a jammy Leeds equaliser, seeing us take only one point from a possible six, while Liverpool win consistently boring games to chase down what was a considerable gap.

The position heading into this one saw us a single point ahead of the scousers with a game in hand, but the prospect of a last day trip to Chelsea while the Reds go to basket case club Southampton, had seen widespread fear that the long-held top four slot might be miserably surrendered.

It is a fact that from where we were 18 months ago, progress to a top six finish and qualification for the Europa league is unquestionably magnificent and an absolute credit to all involved. However, it is also a fact that from the strong position we battled to after the Southampton match, it would be a failure and a relative disappointment to not get Champions League qualification.

BOTH OF THESE STATEMENTS CAN BE TRUE.

It’s not sacrilege to be disappointed if we don’t get this one over the line and if we do collapse down to 5th position it’s absolutely not the end of the world, and we can still look forward with optimism to a bright future under Eddie Howe, who will be rightly gutted if we don’t seal this deal, for all the straight bats he plays in his boring but unmissable interviews.

The bottom line is that Champions League qualification would likely add two major signings to our first team, one that we couldn’t afford without the FFP breathing space that CL riches brings and one that might have his head turned by Europe’s premier competition. This season has always been a golden opportunity to capitalise on the weird World Cup break and the pressure on the existing top six and their exhausting European campaigns. To gatecrash the Champions League at this stage would be cutting a massive corner to the top, but suddenly it was all under threat.

Everyone was bricking it after Brighton decimated the same Arsenal side who had bested us two weeks ago, on their own patch with no shortage of panache. However, that same Brighton had also been walloped on their own ground by an Everton side we slapped silly in the not too distant. No one knew how all this added up but everyone was at least a bit terrified of this going horribly wrong as we finally reached the point where Newcastle United cashed in the legendary game in hand.

The same starting XI as Leeds maybe saw some further jitters but this all calmed at kick off. The benefit of a few hours drinking brought a raucous crowd and the atmosphere was buzzing in what I believe is a unique way for early summer games under floodlights and daylight at the same time. As it has done so many times, this transferred to the team.

The first half seemed to be played almost exclusively in the Brighton half.

Albion were taking playing out from the back to the extreme, with what felt like their entire back four pinned into the six yard box for every goal kick, seemingly inviting the opposition on. This played into United’s high press and we had them looking like the type of team that gets battered by Everton early on. Schar’s free kick was the only early memory of the goalie being called into action though, as United did their old trick of wasting promising set-pieces, making me wonder if we were ever going to score from a corner.

Anyway, we scored from a corner soon after.

Trippier’s delivery was fantastic, fizzing in to the front post. However, I’m going to be a Debbie downer here and suggest that Denis Undav’s desperate header was won while surrounded by about four other Brighton players, as United once again failed to trouble that front post. Undav’s flick was decisive though, sending the ball inside the far post. Trippier took the plaudits, with the subs reaching him far quicker than the entire infield team who were all stood extremely excessively deep at the back post. I’ll reiterate my suggestion that we get a coach in for set plays, as we don’t threaten nearly enough from dead ball deliveries.

Anyway, we made it 2-0 from a dead ball delivery, Trippier sending over an inswinging free kick deep in first half injury time that Dan Burn connected perfectly with to notch his first Premier League goal for Newcastle against his former club, none of that contrived non-celebration cr.. from Wor Dan though, as he went skidding over to the corner on his knees.

Equally as important to this goal I would say was a magnificent tackle seconds earlier by Botman to dispossess Mitoma when he seemed set to run away and equalise. From potentially 1-1 to comfortably 2-0, the world felt right at half time.

Right, here’s a confession reader, that you will know to be true if, like me, you attended this match, or watched it live on Sky, in the pub, at a friend’s house, via unscrupulous means of pirating TV coverage, though Rumbelows window, or in snatches on a phone at some event your wife made you go to. Anyway, regardless, the confession should be understandable: I did not enjoy this second half at all.

It could have been so different, as United almost stretched to 3-0 within moments. Burn, turning in a superb show against his old club, went flying into the corner and somehow dug a cross out which was flicked on by Willock to Almiron at the back post. Miggy seems to almost cushion the shot when there was time to put his foot through it, and Steele smothered it in the Brighton goal.

This of course, set up the nightmare scenario, as Brighton went and reduced the arrears up the other end. Gilmour’s defence splitting pass was excellent, although Schar was slow in picking up Undav, who ran on to beat Pope. There was a break for a VAR check for offside, but they couldn’t save us.

Consultation with the internet tells me that it was a good six minutes into the second half that Brighton scored this alarming goal, but this cannot be right, as there was at least an hour of teeth gnashing, nail-biting terror as the second half seemed to consist of United unravelling while the visitors launched constant waves of attack. Our situation was not helped when Joe Willock crumpled in a heap under little pressure, with what seemed like a hamstring problem and a certain season ender, Joe spotted later leaving SJP on crutches.

I really must petition the people in charge to make the clock on the scoreboard far more visible, as it is torture for people like me, far away and with diminishing eyesight, to try and count down the minuscule figures up there. I was pretty certain we were approaching the 90 and ready to move onto the next panic of the horrendous amount of injury time when a momentous occasion occurred.

Almiron, who I had been shouting to be subbed for half an hour because he looked knackered, produced a magnificent series of skills to bring the ball out from pretty much the right back position and destroyed Caicedo for pace before threading it through for Wilson, who suddenly had an acre of space to run into. Wilson calmly took it on and slotted past Steele to seal the win, the crucial win against a team we all feared would spoil everything we wanted and had dared to presume was coming our way. Wilson has been the undeniable star of this final third of the season and yet again he delivered. I salute that man, and indeed he me, for that is how the lad celebrates.

My heart rate had barely returned to normal when things escalated only two minutes later. Wilson once again stole that acre of space and was set away, but forced off target by the attentions of Dunk, who he shrugged off impressively before squaring for Bruno to smack in the fourth. This was an obviously emotional moment for Bruno as he celebrated extensively with the Gallowgate, including a message for little Arthur Salters-Hoult, whose battle with a rare form of leukaemia has had Bruno’s support lately, just in case you didn’t love him enough already.

Wilson must have been knackered when he had his third run through on goal of the injury time period, as he could only shoot straight at Steele. Eddie would only have dragged him off if he was on a hat-trick anyway.

Make no mistake, this was huge.

A big win against a quality side when we needed it most. Brighton can no longer catch us and Liverpool face a four point deficit as we both enter our final pair of games. They are up first and you have to welcome their finally coming up against a decent opponent, as Villa travel to Anfield looking to secure a spot in the Europa league that their manager has serious history in winning. I’m sure we’ll all be willing on our great great mates from Birmingham to repeat their favour of 2017 but the score in this fixture will only determine what we need to do against the shell of the team that used to be Leicester on Monday night.

With Willock surely done for and Joelinton limping off, you could be forgiven for getting all up a height again, but surely we have one foot in the top four. Thankfully, by the time the jitters have truly kicked in, it will be time to support good chums Villa and if that doesn’t come off, the next big night under the lights will be here pronto. It could well be one of the headiest, wildest of them all that will stick long in the memory.

Eddie’s mags, touching distance of the Champions League. Calm down you lot eh?

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 4 Brighton 1 – Thursday 18 May 7.30pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Undav 22 OG, Burn 45+4, Wilson 89, Bruno 90+1

Brighton:

Undav 51

Possession was Brighton 66%  Newcastle 34%

Total shots were Brighton 8 Newcastle 22

Shots on target were Brighton 2 Newcastle 9

Corners were Brighton 1 Newcastle 6

Referee: Robert Jones

Crowd: 52,122

Newcastle United:

Pope, Trippier (Manquillo 90+5), Schar, Botman, Burn, Bruno, Joelinton (Targett 90+5), Almiron (ASM 90+4), Willock (Anderson 61), Isak (Gordon 90+4), Wilson

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, Dummett, Lewis, Miley

(What a day to sing in the Leazes as a Newcastle United fan – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 4 Brighton 1 – Match ratings and comments on all of the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 4 Brighton 1 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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