United returned to winning ways after a recent blip to climb back to the top of the league with a convincing display in one of the most one sided matches in recent times at SJP. Rafa brought Anita and Diame into the starting line up from the game at Forest and from the word go our passing was crisp and our movement good.
Birmingham came in fifth place and with some decent form behind them but like Leeds who were in an identical position a couple of weeks previously, they never really lived with us from very early on. We quickly got hold of the game from the midfield and had already tested their keeper out before we took the lead in the 17th minute – the first time I think we’ve scored during the MH17 applause? The goal came from nothing too and all credit had to go to Mo Diame, who after starting brightly received the ball in what seemed like a dead end position on the touchline out wide. To his credit and without support he managed to fashion a great cross which Dwight Gayle was equal to, leaping highest in the box to firmly head home.
No sooner had Gayle got the first then we were two up from the same source. This time, Isaac Hayden proved the driving force, picking the ball up from Ritchie and surging towards goal. His cross was deflected fortunately into the path of Gayle and after initially snatching at his shot, he was presented with another opportunity two yards out which he gratefully accepted to tap home and double our lead. It’s worth making reference at this point to Hayden – it would be churlish not to give man of the match to Gayle after a hat trick, but I thought the midfield man was fantastic this afternoon and I think that given his age and scope for improvement under Rafa, we have a star in the making with Hayden – a genuinely classy performance.
The visitors barely had a kick for the rest of the half as we again tested their keeper on a couple of occasions, with Hayden curling an effort just wide and Ritchie stinging his hands but we only had to wait a minute or so past the interval to stretch our lead further. Shelvey put a free kick over that wasn’t dealt with and the ball found it’s way to a peroxide-headed Gouffran who squeezed a shot past Kusczak at the near post to make it three. Poor keeping but no less than we deserved. Some of our passing at this point was exquisite and Gayle came close to his hat trick after another silky move as he shot just wide from a Diame pass.
Atsu came on for Gouffran and had a chance from the edge of the box which flashed just wide shortly after before we
completed the scoring with around a quarter of an hour to go with Gayle getting his second hat-trick of the season. This time he latched on to an accurate Shelvey pass to make no mistake inside the box, taking his tally to 16 and in this form, there is no reason why he wouldn’t double that before the end of the season to go on to become the most prolific Newcastle striker since Andy Cole – the kid looks like he’s going to score every time he’s got the chance and deserves huge credit for our current position in the table. He came off for Mitrovic for the final ten minutes but with the game in the bag, we were content to breeze to victory and take our place back on the top of the pile.
For me, this was our best performance of the season so far. Everything clicked in the Preston cup game but today we played some first class football and half a dozen of the team were contenders for man of the match, whilst the other five all had good games too. It’s rare that you see an entire team play well as they did today without exception and it bodes very well ahead of two imminently winnable away games over the next week at Wigan and Burton. They are two of the smallest clubs in the league, but rest assured that Rafa won’t be letting them stroll into the game and I’ve no doubt that we’ll carry out two professional jobs on our march to promotion. In the meantime, today was great – much needed after the injustice of the last week and very enjoyable to watch to boot.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Darlow 7, Anita 8, Clark 9, Lascelles 8, Dummett 7, Ritchie 9, Hayden 9, Shelvey 8, Gouffran 7, Diame 8, GAYLE 9
Ref – – Had an OK game, compared to the last few we’ve had, he was basically Pierluigi Collina
Our Fans – 7 – Enjoyed themselves, good to see the Gayle song catching on
Their Fans – 7 – Good numbers and good humoured
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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