A welcome victory all but sealed our Premier League status for another season at a chilly SJP. Anita (thankfully) and Perez (surprisingly) missed out from Man City and with Colback suspended, Obertan, Abeid and Riviere were brought in but the first half followed recent trends at home in that it was absolutely terrible. Both sides struggled to gain control in a game that mainly featured Williamson lumping aimless balls forward for us and Benteke badly isolated up front for them.
Agbonlahor was correctly ruled offside when he put past Krul on the quarter hour and Benteke then had their best chance of the half with an acrobatic scissor kick that Krul did well to save but they lacked cohesion and I thought that Westwood and Cleverley in particular in the middle were garbage, although Abeid for us was off his game. Just as it seemed like they were getting on top towards the end of the half, we struck with the game’s only goal. Janmaat did well down the right to put over a lovely cross which Cisse caught on his knee before steering past Guzan in front of the Leazes. Lovely finish from the game’s outstanding performer and I have Cisse down as directly winning us 10 points this season – the difference between relegation form and mid-table comfort.
Half time brought solace from a biting wind and the second half was a marked improvement on what had gone before. Cisse nearly doubled his tally but headed just wide from a free kick before Haidara was stretchered off with a nasty looking injury – we’ve gone from having three left backs at the club to none in two months and although Ryan Taylor stepped in comfortably for him, were he to have a reoccurrence of his injury, we’d be desperately short in that department. Obertan blazed over from a tight angle and then Sissoko should have done better when put through by Sammy, who I thought had a very bright game. Obertan then lived up to his maddening reputation by idling on the ball when put clear through and I don’t know whether it is just confidence with the lad or the lack of a footballing brain.
N’Zogbia came off the bench for them but did very little although Villa thought they had equalised shortly after when a flurry of chances were kept out before Benteke stabbed home, only to be ruled offside. After that let off, we could have extended our lead firstly from a Taylor free kick which was saved well low down. Ayoze, who had come on shortly beforehand for the awful Riviere then did very well to get a header in from a tight angle, but that came back off the post and was cleared.
Despite him warming up to rapturous applause on the 18th minute, there was to be no sighting of Jonas in a black and white shirt again as Gouffran was brought on as our third sub for Obertan and in all honesty, we saw the game out relatively comfortably. Coloccini, not for the first time in the game, threw himself in front of a goalbound effort and the last chance fell to waste of talent N’Zogbia but he thankfully blazed well over deep into the six minutes of added time and the game ended with us taunting the Villa fans – on this showing, I fail to see how they’re going to stay up and their banner calling for Lerner to go summed up the discontent that they feel at their club – sound familiar?
Still, that’s not our worry and they’d certainly be no loss to the top flight, what goes around comes around eh? We’ll have a very different test when Man United come to town on Wednesday and I think we’ll either beat them or be on the end of a hiding but at least now we’re not looking over our shoulders and the team can concentrate on the holy grail of a tenth place finish and a nice bonus cheque. The game won’t live long in the memory but the result was a satisfying one and an important one on the back of the Man City debacle – there’s still huge question marks over the quality of the squad though and I thank God that Cisse wasn’t peddled over Christmas.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Krul 7, Janmaat 7, Williamson 7, Coloccini 7, Haidara 6 (R Taylor 7), Sissoko 6, Abeid 5, Obertan 6 (Gouffran 6), Sammy 7, Riviere 4 (Perez 6), CISSE 8
Ref – Mason – 7 – Got most things right
Our Fans – 6 – Better than the last couple of games, enjoyed rubbing Villa’s noses in it.
Their Fans – 6 – Good numbers but very quiet – loved them running over to goad the family enclosure for the disallowed goal.
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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