Newcastle United entered their 11th game of the season against a Rotherham side who have conceded more goals than any other team in the Championship and are rock bottom of the table. Newcastle sat 3rd in the table conversely have scored more goals than all of their league rivals so far. It would have been a fair assumption then that this match shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge to a Newcastle side who at times this season have been imperious and were flying high following a dramatic victory in the final seconds against 2nd place Norwich in midweek.
Rafa Benitez before the game claimed the this Rotherham side were better than their league position showed, and although I think he had a point they were no push overs, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet they won’t be in this division next season and it won’t be because they are in the premier league.
Rotherham started the brighter of the two sides clearly motivated by what should be regarded as the arrival of the biggest team to the New York Stadium this season. Isaiah Brown on loan from Chelsea particularly was a handful for Newcastle throughout the first half as he put himself about trying unsettle the Newcastle backline alongside Danny Ward. Ward so far this season has been ever present for Rotherham picking up a respectable 5 goals in process. A potential threat pregame in my mind, but not in reality he threw himself to ground as if he was mortally wounded at every opportunity, struggled with the basics of being able to control the ball, and to my memory didn’t test Karl Darlow once. With his David Beckhamesc hair cut he just seemed to be a comedians parody of a footballer rather than an actual one, more Jason Bent than Darren for those of you who get that reference…Somehow he got Rotherham man of the match, I’ve no idea how.
Back to the game… Jonjo Shelvey had a very quiet start to the match it felt like a good 20 minutes at least before he made touch, Colback was tearing about doing the work of two men it seemed. Troubling for the away end as Shelvey has been in fine form this season and is the closet player to being excused from Rafa’s rotation policy as he has vision and passing ability our other central midfielders simply do not. However any fears that this may be a bad day at the office were put to bed as Newcastle began to stir midway through the second half and Shelvey came to life. Come in number 30, as the clock rolled into the 41st minute Christian Atsu in for the magic Matt Ritchie announced his arrival in a black in white shirt with a sublimely hit curling shot that ex-Forest keeper Lee Camp could do nothing about. Atsu in his first start for United demonstrated to us all why Chelsea took a chance on him. His Pace, skill on the ball, judgement, and of course shooting were fantastic and he could have made it two nil in the second half. He is a very exciting prospect and will have given Rafa Benitez plenty to think about ahead of Brentford.
As much as I enjoyed Atsu’s performance today I have to admit Matt Ritchies entrance to replace him on the 67th minute was a real highlight for me, the away end exploded with a rendition of a song about his magic hat that I’m sure you’ve all heard and stayed on repeat for a good ten minutes.
By this stage in the match it’s fair to say underdogs Rotherham were not truly out of the game they were still adding to their corner count in rapid fashion without being able to test an assured Karl Darlow who plucked most of their balls from the air with ease. Rotherham piled on the pressure late doors striking the bar which caused undue panic. Undue as Newcastle should have put this game to bed sooner with a second goal.
Anita and Dummett simply offer us nothing going forward, both solid at the back but I would have preferred to have seen Yedlin keep his place he offers more going forwards as shown by his two assists midweek. Too often Newcastle were content to make sideways and backwards passes with Anita and Dummet the main agitators. Don’t get me wrong both had decent games I’d just like to see more ambition from them both when attacking. Overall the whole team played pretty well it was a frustrating day for Gayle and Diame. Newcastle played a lot of long balls that aren’t what Gayle needs and would have been better suited to Mitrovic, however he provides a valuable goal threat and after a hat-trick midweek it would have been very harsh to drop him.
Diame seems to be running out of credit with the crowd despite being a favourite of Rafa’s he needs a goal or something soon to win back some of the dissenting voices, which I’m sure will come – and should have come today as he blasted the ball into a Rotherham defenders face to deny a 2-0 lead.
All in all a solid performance we got the three points and that’s all that really matters.
Rotherham as a place is eerily quiet we didn’t see many people in the town centre very similar to Sunderland but cleaner probably down to the lack of people. Don’t expect to ever come back here but the New York Stadium is nice enough, very small but good atmosphere from eight thousand or so fans that were there.
Darlow 8: Assured performance from the man who should nail down the NO.1 Jersey now.
Anita 7: Solid but needs to show more ambition going forwards.
Lascelles 8: Forming a formidable partnership with Clark difficult to see them split up now
Clark 8: Excellent on the ball, another great performance Rotherham couldn’t get passed him
Dummet 6: You get what you expect.
Gouffran 7: Lucky Charm, industrious again the resurrection continues
Colback 7: Put in a real shift for the team here, broke up play well some good passing on display too.
Shelvey 7: Slow start but picked up to the standard we’ve all come to expect.
Atsu 9: Great first start for the club, announced his arrival with a spectacular goal, and bright spark throughout.
Diame 6: Some decent pieces but can’t help but feel we need to get more out of him.
Gayle 6: Frustrating day for the lad but his day will come again soon.
Ritchie (61) – Just a class act and that song…
Mitro (79) – Some good some bad. Should get a start soon
Hanley (87) – Helped see the game out
On to the next one.
When we win the Championship we’ll sing this song all night…
ANDY BOLLAND – Follow Andy on @andylecht90
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