United returned to the top of the table with a routine victory against the bottom team and ended the day nine points clear of the play off places, with the mini wobble at the turn of the year now a distant memory. Rafa obviously rang the changes from the cup game in midweek with no fewer than seven changes to the starting line up from the Birmingham game.
However, the scoreline doesn’t really tell the full story of the game and in honesty, we laboured for much of the first half. We struggled to break the Millers down and our best half chances fell to Perez. For the first he was played in behind the defence but opted to shoot from a tight angle when a square ball would have left Shelvey with a clear sight and for his second he blazed over when played through on the keeper but neither were gilt edged chances.
The game could easily have turned shortly before half time when Darlow came racing off his line to intercept a ball into the box. Sliding out to collect it, he sensed that he was about to leave the area with the ball in his hands, so let go to allow Forde a chance to nick in with an open goal. Darlow was very lucky that the forward didn’t go down when he clipped his ankles as he would have walked and conceded a penalty, but the keeper worked wonders to scamper across the line and block what seemed like a certain goal from Yates.
The save lifted the crowd and we took the lead at the proverbial ideal time to score, deep into first half injury time. A raking Shelvey free kick from inside his own half was cushioned down by Yedlin to Murphy and the forward showed his class by controlling and swivelling to curl a shot past the keeper into the Gallowgate net. A really quality finish and for all that Murphy is never going to skin a centre half for pace, he’s technically first rate.
The game was over just four minutes into the second half after a piece of poor goalkeeping – Gouffran’s relatively weak shot simply palmed back into Ritchie’s path and the winger made no mistake from five yards out – got to be in the right place at the right time and all that like! The visitors looked sorry for themselves as you would expect from a side who had only gained a point on the road all season and we threatened to overwhelm them when we added a third on the hour. Yedlin chased what looked like a lost cause down to the byline, but his impressive pace saw him catch the ball and pull it back for the onrushing Perez who bulleted a header home – cracking goal.
The unlikely sight of Sammy Ameobi taking the field added a surreal twist to the afternoon, the substitute afforded a hero’s welcome (irony?) when he came on shortly after the third goal and young Jamie Sterry also got a run out along with Lazaar before we added a fourth with quarter of an hour to go, with a fine strike from Ritchie inside the area, running on to a slide rule pass from Shelvey. Ritchie is amassing a decent haul of goals this season and has returned to his early season form in the past few games, whilst Shelvey again was a class above in the middle – hopefully he can continue to repay the club for his self-imposed absence and see us to promotion. We need him on the pitch.
We stopped at four and any more would have been cruel on Rotherham – it might be a while until we meet in the league again but they’ve been a canny bunch in the two times we’ve met this season and we wish them well for the rest of the campaign but for United, there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks – a winnable Cup game that could see us in the last 16 and a string of winnable home games in February that could conceivably see us heading into the spring in a merry old state. For now it’s one game at a time but looking at the table tonight, it’s very much the case of ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Darlow 8, Yedlin 7 (Sterry 6), Clark 7, Lascelles 7, Dummett 6, RITCHIE 8, Hayden 7, Shelvey 7, Gouffran 8 (Ameobi 6), Perez 6, Murphy 6 (Lazaar 6)
Ref – Simpson – 7 – Had next to nowt to do, but did nowt wrong.
Our Fans – 7 – Another magnificent turnout.
Their Fans – 7 – Great numbers, good crack in the pub beforehand, had nowt to shout about during the match
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth of @truefaith1892
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