Six thousand of us made the short trip to south Yorkshire tonight to see a utterly comfortable Newcastle victory which saw us hit the summit of the Championship for the first time this season. Such was the dominance of tonight’s performance, I don’t think we will be knocked off our perch again for the rest of the season.
Rafa made his customary handful of changes to the 11 that saw off Brentford on Saturday with the excellent Haydon coming in for Colback and Ritchie in for Atsu, both looking sharp and effective. Hayden in particular put in his most solid performance in a black and white shirt.
Mo Diane looked ineffective again having replaced Perez in the first eleven, but a player so obviously lacking in confidence will not have been helped at all by sections of the away end chastising his every touch.
These kind of trips are what we missed playing in a southern dominated premier league – short jaunts down the country where you can leave and get back at a reasonable time, even for a midweek game. We set off at about 2.30 this afternoon having all taken half days at work and made it to a Weatherspoons in the centre of Barnsley by just before 5. Easy.
Barnsley turned up to frustrate our lads and they achieved it well, limiting us to a couple of half chances in a dour first half that stunk of championship class football. Gouffran looked like he should have scored with a header at the back post but we couldn’t see properly as we were sat directly behind the crossbar, which managed to block our view of just about the entire pitch before we moved back and stood on the stairs. That was a new one for me, but it didn’t block out much as both teams just ran through the motions in a boring first half.
Barnsley missed a trick not serving beer at half time and the raucous atmosphere on the concourse pre match didn’t really made it through to the stand for the first half, and a quiet away stand briefly came alive a couple of minutes after half time as some early pressure led to Diame missing an absolute sitter before Gayle prodded home his tenth of the campaign. In all though, it was a quiet, disjointed away end that struggled to make use of its numbers to make any significant noise.
That coupled with the utter stupidity of screaming at Diame and constantly singing for Mitrovic (who hasn’t really contributed at all this season and would only have been brought on at the expense of the excellent Gayle) made for slightly unenjoyable away end overall, although Gayle beating the keeper to a through ball for his second made up for some of that.
In truth Newcastle never really needed to get out of second gear against a Barnsley side that didn’t threaten our goal until the dying stages of the game. It was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested and Newcastle could easily have had a few more goals in the second half, with Gayle and Diame both missing chances at the near post.
I said at the start of the season we’d finish on 111 points. That’s looking a bit optimistic now but I don’t think we’ll be too far short. Couple that with the impending league cup win and we’re in for a good season.
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