United pulled themselves out of the relegation zone on what could turn out to be a pivotal afternoon in the survival race. Wijnaldum for Perez was the only change from Anfield and the game was preceeded by a lovely rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by the home crowd.
Despite the enormity of the game, the first half was largely played out at half pace and the visitors probably had the best of the first 45 minutes. Lascelles made a goal saving tackle from a portly looking Conor Wickham early on and Bolasie fired an effort just over the bar and we looked like we lacked a spark. We fashioned a chance of our own when Sissoko seemed to turn his back on a Dummett cross when he had the goal to aim at and despite a general muttering of ‘Don’t fuckin shoot man’, Mbemba forced a decent save from Hennessey with an effort from fully forty yards.
At half time, things looked pretty bleak for us – we’d created nowt, the Mackems were level at Stoke and it was difficult to see where we were going to create something from but we came in a much more positive vein in the second half. Townsend had been carrying most of our attacking threat when he was fouled on the edge of the box just before the hour mark. He lined the ball up from a long way outside the box and a shot looked optimistic but he stepped up and curled a fine effort into the top corner beyond a flat-footed Hennessey to send the crowd into raptures.
With news that Sunderland were losing at Stoke and Palace seemingly going through the motions, our whole season seemed to be turning around in the space of 15 minutes and we took control of the game after the goal. We seemed to be coasting when from absolutely nowhere, Palace were awarded a spot kick. Cabaye had been abused when he came over to take a corner but his flighted ball was adjudged to have been handled to Sissoko to general bemusement around the ground. It took me about ten seconds to realise that the ref had awarded a spot kick but the hush around the ground contrasted with the lack of protest from our defenders.
Cabaye himself stepped up to take the penalty but his weak effort was saved by Darlow and all of sudden it felt like we were actually going to stay up. I can’t actually remember the last United keeper to save a spot kick (answers on a postcard please) and it capped an excellent second half by Darlow, who was flawless from every ball into the box – I’m pleased for the lad and as good a season as Eliott has had, I see more in this lad for the next few years.
Mitrovic came on from Cisse, who again grafted his bollocks off to little effect and Perez and Shelvey were also introduced late on but with nerves jangling, we managed to hold on with a bit to spare to great celebrations that were dimmed slightly by news filtering through of the Mackems late penalty equaliser at Stoke.
I’d said all week in the run up to this game that if we were out of the bottom three by Saturday night, we’d stay up and I’m as confident as I’ve been for the whole season that we are going to avoid the drop. This was a great win for us and if we can follow it up at Villa next weekend, we could conceivably be 4 points ahead of the Mackems and Norwich going into the final week of the season which would be a huge gap for the others to haul back.
The fact that we’re even in with half a chance is testimony to having a proper manager in the dugout and a side that finally look like they’re playing for and the next two games are as important as any in our modern history. We can do this.
Keep the Faith
NEWCASTLE UNITED – Darlow 9, Anita 7 (Shelvey n/a), Mbemba 7, Lascelles 7, Dummett 7, Tiote 7, Colback 7, Sissoko 7, Wijnaldum 6 (Perez n/a), TOWNSEND 9, Cisse 7 (Mitrovic 6)
Ref – Dean – 6 – No major decisions but still a pain in the arse
Our Fans – 8 – Excellent in the second half again and the YNWA was a lovely touch
Their Fans – 7 – I like Palace, decent turnout when they’ve got nowt to play for and contributed to the atmosphere
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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