Our fine run continued as we made it 22 points from a possible last 27 in a dramatic afternoon at SJP. HBA finally worked his way back into the starting line-up to replace the suspended Tiote but it was the latter that was the most glaring miss for the first half hour as we laboured badly against a Stoke side who had all of their usual ‘attributes’ on show.
We struggled to create any chances of note in the first thirty minutes and whenever we broke, Stoke always had twice as many bodies behind the ball and sensing our lack of direction, they started to venture forward themselves. Charlie Adam gave us two warning shots that flashed narrowly wide before they deservedly took the lead through Assaidi. He cut inside Santon to fire a fine strike into the far corner and nearly repeated the feat shortly afterwards as our back line and in particular our left back looked ragged.
It took a bit of niggle in the middle to swing the game in almost unbelievable circumstances in our direction when Cabaye clattered Adam only to see Whelan booked for retaliation.
Minutes later he was off after a hack on Cabaye in front of the East Stand where the crack of the tackle was clearly audible and the midfielder walked off the pitch, still enveloped in red mist. The Stoke implosion was only just beginning though and Whelan was rapidly followed into the stands by manager Mark Hughes. After some initial confusion, Hughes was ordered off by the fourth official and flounced off in a comedy hissy-fit, throwing his coat into the crowd. Snidey player, shit manager, a truly all-round bell-end. Prick.
Things got even better just moments later when Anita played Remy through on goal only for Wilson to hack him down. The ref had no option but to show another red and point to the spot but with the crowd delirious, Remy inexplicably stepped up to take the spot with Ben Arfa, who had netted from the spot days earlier stood twiddling his thumbs. Sorensen dived to save the spot kick in a remarkably similar fashion to a certain save a few years earlier(Ed: shudder) but we didn’t need to wait long for Remy to atone, equalising via a deflection just before half time. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the goal stemmed from an outrageous handball by Williamson in the build up and hey, when your luck’s in…
I’ve rarely seen a game swing in such an extreme fashion in such a short period of time and within a couple of minutes of the restart, we were ahead and suddenly cruising to victory.
This time, Ben Arfa jinked to the by-line to pull over a cross that Sorensen made a complete balls of, fumbling into the path of Gouffran who fired home through a body of players from the edge of the box. Having not yet seen a replay, I could have sworn HBA had taken the ball out before the cross but by this point it was clearly going to be our day.
Stoke looked absolutely broken and when we got our third with only ten minutes of the half gone, we were starting to look towards a cricket score. This time, Santon worked his way down the line to cross for Sissoko who headed to Remy at the back post for a simple finish. We scented blood now and we wanted against these dicks – horrible city, horrible fans, horrible players, horrible manager, horrible football.
Cabaye got the best of the lot to put us 4-1 up, working well on the edge of the box after an interchange of passes to curl a ball past Sorensen in front of the Gallowgate. We could have had another three before we actually scored again. Firstly, Ben Arfa cut inside from the flank but saw a shot flash back off the far post and then he jinked around five men before crashing his effort back off the bar to deny a fantastic goal. Gouffran totally fluffed a header from three yards out and when you add in Remy’s penalty miss, we could have been heading towards double figures – incredible given that we were heading towards defeat with less than an hour to go.
Pardew sensed that even Cisse had a chance to get on the score-sheet and introduced him shortly before we won another penalty when Ben Arfa was chopped down in the box.
Cabaye magnanimously stepped aside and the Senegalese planted a fine spot kick into the top corner to be met with the biggest cheer of the day. We finished at five and I don’t think anyone quite believed what they had seen.
Two sendings off, one manager in the stands, two penalties (if we’re quibbling, it should have been three as the ref missed/bottled the most blatant one at Haidara at the end) for them, five lovely Christmas goals for us. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
And now Arsenal on Sunday. I’m excited already. If SJP can be as good as we know it can despite the shite kick off time and we can get at them early on, you just never know.
Where will it all end?
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Tim Krul 6, Matthieu Debuchy 7, Mike Williamson 7, Fabricio Coloccini 7, Davide Santon 6 (Massaido Haidara 7), HATEM BEN ARFA 8, Moussa Sissoko 6, Vurnon Anita 6 (Shola Ameobi 6), Yohan Cabaye 7, Yoan Gouffran 7 (Papiss Cisse 6), Loic Remy 7
Ref – Atkinson – 10 – Loved him
Our Fans – 6 – Quiet, then stunned, then much louder.
Their Fans – 2 – Shit turn out for Boxing Day, hope it took them fucking ages to get back