United ground out three points to extend our unbeaten run and stretch the distance between ourselves and third place in a game where we coasted the first half and held on a little at the end. Rafa left Mitrovic up front, with Gayle returning to the bench whilst Perez came in for Diame but any worries we had that this would be a tough game were quickly dispelled when we took control inside three minutes.
After his recent purple patch in front of goal, Mitrovic turned provider, taking a ball on the edge of the box before holding off his man and laying a smart ball into the path of Atsu. The winger took a touch before cleverly beating the keeper at his near post with a low strike which sneaked inside the post. We were so in control of the game for the next twenty minutes that it almost seemed too easy and the intensity certainly dropped off as we took our time to try and pick our way through the Cardiff defence. Shelvey had a goal-bound effort nodded away by Bamba with the keeper beaten but we didn’t turn our dominance into chances.
Dummett fired an effort at their keeper but we did extend our lead moments before the break. We’ve made a canny knack
of scoring early and also at the fabled perfect time to notch on the cusp of half time this season and the second was a well worked goal, ultimately finished with a crisp strike into the bottom corner by Gouffran to send us in with a comfortable two goal lead at the interval.
The game followed a similar trajectory for the first 15 minutes of the second half and Atsu had an effort deflected just over shortly after the break but we started to look a bit leggy and short of ideas and Cardiff came into the game. Lambert screwed an effort wide when he found himself free inside the box and his star has fallen pretty rapidly, looking well overweight alongside Hoilett up front for them – it seems like next to no time since both were doing great things in the top flight.
Cardiff fashioned another chance that Whittingham flashed just over the bar but they were back in in with quarter of an hour to go when Whittingham again picked his spot through a crowd of players from the edge of the box. They had another chance from close range shortly after but the ball just cleared the crossbar and there were a lot of parallels from Deepdale from last weekend when we started to cling on to our lead after being comfortably ahead.
As the clock ticked on though, Cardiff themselves started to run out of chances and in a sign of the struggle we had on our hands, Mitrovic headed for the corner flag as the clock struck ninety minutes. Hold on we did though and the result was as welcome as the 6-0 at QPR earlier in the season – it’s a cliché to say but three points is three points and there will be as many games like this as there will be cakewalks this season as we continue with getting on with the job to get back to the top flight. In truth, no-one really shone (although I am eating humble pie on a weekly basis with the performances of Ciaran Clark who looks composed on the ball and solid at the back) but you’d have to have a pretty short/selective memory to start getting too fussy about HOW we win these days. It’ll be tough again in front of a full house at Leeds in a fortnight but I sense that we’re ready for a breather and it would take a brave man to bet against us down at Elland Road. We’re Newcastle and we’re gonna win the league.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Darlow 6, Yedlin 6, CLARK 8, Lascelles 7, Dummett 7, Hayden 6, Shelvey 6, Gouffran 6 (Anita 6), Atsu 7 (Diame n/a), Perez 5, Mitrovic 6
Ref – Harrington – 4 Made two ridiculous decisions in the first half but nothing that swung the direction of the game fortunately
Our Fans – 6 – Quiet for spells but no real grumbling
Their Fans – 5 – Surprisingly poor turnout
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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