Ever since Rafael Benitez Newcastle United did the business at Brighton, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas for the rest of the working week. People may try to underplay that comeback and result as much as they want but make no mistake, winning away at the leaders was a monumental result. If I had to (and I tend to) compare it to a result from a previous promotion campaign then it is certainly up there with coming back to beat Millwall away in April 1993 which gave us the impetus to grab Promotion sooner rather than later.
Onto Huddersfield Town then who before the game sat 8 points behind United with a game in hand. Our first league visit to The John Smiths Stadium ensured a new ground ticked off the list for many and the older generation would reminisce of the Geordie invasion of their previous home Leeds Road when Arthur Cox’s Black and White Army earned the required point to clinch promotion back in 1984.
With age I tend not to worry or indeed care too much of our opponents. Ignorant perhaps, but to be frank, my obsession with football as a whole stopped many years so my knowledge on our opponents was extremely limited. One thing I do know is that their ‘fantastic record’ of 6 wins in a row prior to their 1-1 draw at Barnsley isn’t as impressive as the 9 Rafa’s men achieved earlier this season. Credit where due though, they had earned 1 more point than The Mags over the last 9 games.
Friday’s announcement that the game would be a record league attendance at the ground was pleasing to hear. I don’t mind Huddersfield. For some reason I remember them, like United, having ‘Greenall Beers’ on their shirts (a quick check confirms this occurred simultaneously with Newcastle between 1986 and 1991) and I also became a ‘follower’ of sorts when Lee Clark managed them.
After departing from Hebburn at 11.15am, our pub stop, and the welcome news that Brighton were hammered 0-3 at Forest, increased enthusiasm further. Backed by 1900 supporters, Rafa’s tweaks to the side included a start for Daryl Murphy, who influenced the win at Brighton, and the returning Vurnon Anita after a 10 game absence. Yoan Gouffran and the unfortunate DeAndre Yedlin dropped to the bench whilst Alexsandar Mitrovic wasn’t included in the squad which confirms that something clearly isn’t right with the lad.
The away end seemed more drunk than usual, if that is possible, but constantly backed the side and, we were celebrating soon due to a soft penalty decision given when Matt Ritchie went down in the box. Not that I saw it. A visit to the toilet meant I missed it and the volume of the roars when the penalty was awarded and converted made me genuinely believe we were 0-1 down. Ritchie notched his 4th penalty and 13th goal of the season. Happy days.
We appeared to sit back and allow the hosts to attack but, with a back 4 that boasted 17 clean sheets in all competitions, we were never truly tested bar a few long range efforts and a Michael Hefele header that went wide. Indeed, the game planned out this way but once Murphy, capitalising on a rare through ball, put us 2 up from a tight angle after the half hour and we were never going to be beaten. Murphy once more showed his attributes when winning the majority of his headers and leading the line well before being taken off for the returning Dwight Gayle.
The referee appeared to even things out when he penalised Jonjo Shelvey for an alleged foul on Elias Kachunga and Aaron Mooy beat Karl Darlow for the 4th penalty we’ve conceded this season.
Encouraging the home support to bang the annoying drum to our right more loudly (please, let’s not go down this route), the away end took comfort in reminiscing in glorious derby days of the past with a lengthy version of the ‘Any O’Brien’ song before 4 minutes of injury time were announced.
Throwing substitute keeper Joel Coleman up for a corner backfired when a Ciaran Clark, who gets better with each game, clearance ended up with Gayle through on goal to head into an empty net to shut the home support up once and for all. His 21st goal of the season means he is 4 short of the 25 David Kelly scored in 1992-93 but well ahead of Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll’s 17 in 2009-10.
Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles instantly ran to the supporters to celebrate as wildy as we did. They love playing for this club and you should love having them, and the rest of the squad, playing for you.
The stats may tell us that they had 76% possession and more than double our attempts on goal but the fact remains we’re now 5 points clear of Brighton and more importantly, 11 ahead of Huddersfield.
Those who follow me on Twitter know my dislike to song choice’s that appear to have become most popular these days. ‘Please Don’t Take me Home’ for example was introduced in apparent celebration of another fantastic European adventure at Club Brugge back in late 2012. It shouldn’t be our anthem and, as now sang by almost every club, the players leaving the pitch to that instead of ‘The Blaydon Races’ or a rousing rendition of ‘Newcastle’ doesn’t sit well with this misery.
It is always great to say you were there on a day records were at least equalled. The 13 away wins achieved by Kevin Keegan’s 93 side was matched yesterday and can be beaten with 5 road trips to go.
Be proud of this.
MARC CORBY – FOLLOW Marc on @NUFC_1980_1994
Many thanks to
@jdb92_ for the photo inset.
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