Three more vital points were secured this afternoon as Newcastle put Champions League chasing West Ham to the sword with a convincing performance helped by an outstanding debut from their new £12m man.
Having fought so valiantly for a dramatic point on Tuesday against Manchester United with Paul Dummett’s last minute strike, the Geordie nation arrived at St James Park hoping for a continuation of the style and passion shown that night and perhaps a touch of magic from at least one of the new men. They wouldn’t be disappointed.
From the first whistle it was clear that the men in black and white meant business, with quick incisive passing and a tempo that was missing during the early part of this season. For their part, the 50,000 strong black and white army would turn up too, getting behind the lads from the first whistle and not letting those players who’d asked for an electric atmosphere once again down one bit.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Dummett (Saivet 57), Mbemba, Colo (c), Janmaat, Colback, Shelvey, Perez (Gouffran 80), Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Mitrovic (Lascelles 95)
McClaren would hand a debut to Jonjo Shelvey who would start in the middle of the park with Colback. Saivet would only make a place on the bench.
And it was Newcastle’s new England man who would take centre stage in a pulsating half an hour at the start of the match.
Already having gone close when Sissoko had raced clear after only a couple of minutes, and then Perez fluffed a tricky chance, it would take NUFC just 5 minutes to break the deadlock as they dominated the early stages. The West Ham players looked like a rabbit that had been caught in the headlights as wave after wave of early pressure told as Shelvey picked up the ball at the edge of the centre circle in West Ham’s half only to thread a delicious ball into the feet of Wijnaldum who’s graceful and delicate layoff fell directly into the path of an unmarked Perez who obliged with a sublime curved low finish into the right hand corner of the goal.
Not content with that, Newcastle drove on with their new found confidence and, with chances coming and going for the Mags, Shelvey once more proved what a wonderful addition he is sure to be at St James Park as this time a 67 yard diagonal pass from his own half found Janmaat who’s first touch was to push the ball past his opposing left back and centre for the onrushing Wijnaldum to tuck home for his ninth goal of the season.
The Geordie nation could only salivate in disbelief at what they’d just seen.The pass from Jonjo was something his ex teammate and Liverpool, Gerrard, would have been proud of in his pomp. It wasn’t so much a pass as a ‘drive’ allowing Janmaat to reach it without even breaking stride. Some of that £12m price tag was paid back right there and the last player who had the vision and ability to play that sort of ball in a black and white shirt was Cabaye. Let’s hope we see an awful lot more of that, only this time for many seasons more.
As the first half wore on Newcastle almost seemed to slow the game down a little, if for no other reason than just to have a rest. The energy and emotion of the quick start made by the players seemed to take a visible toll, although Newcastle would continue to create all but one of the decent chances that half.
What was required in the second half was another fast start. Unfortunately any positive half time team talk would evaporate within 3 minutes of the restart. The ever reliable Mbemba, having seemingly dealt with a rare promising Hammers attack, inexplicably passed the ball too square back to Elliot. The player could only watch the newly introduced Jelavic nick the ball past a sprawling Elliot and tuck the ball into the empty net.
The away goal would both breathe new life into a previously lacklustre and sterile West Ham team and, of course, give our lads in black and white the jitters.
In truth, the resultant nail biting would not be necessary as Newcastle United would see out the game relatively comfortably as they continued to create the lions share of decent chances including one each for Wijnaldum and Mitrovic who both should have done better with only the keeper to beat.
The game could have turned out a little differently however even at 2-0 up when Shelvey and Valencia clashed just outside the Newcastle penalty area. The coming together was missed by the referee and replays initially seemed to show Jonjo raising his elbow to the Enner’s face. Other angles suggest that Shelvey raises his elbow only after a collision with Shelvey’s shoulder. Either way it may be one the FA have a look at although we think there is likely to be no action taken on this one. For today Shelvey will be concentrating on a very impressive 96 minutes of football, showing the sort of incisive passing and intent that has been missing for too long from those already at the club.
Elsewhere an injury early in the second half to Dummett will be a concern for McClaren too. Although his exiting the action did allow a first look at Saivet in centre midfield with Colback moving to left back. Our immediate view is he may need to beef up a little if he’s going to fill the holding role in our side. Too early to tell really though.
Overall then, a very satisfying day at the office for all in black and white. And with 5under1land losing and Swansea not playing until Monday a welcome climb of our the bottom three to boot.
VERDICT: A very convincing display from the lads. The first 30 minutes in particular was at times breathtaking. And with Jonjo Shelvey giving an early indication of what we all hope he will consistently bring to the team things are looking a little more optimistic. With a couple of tricky away fixtures up next against Watford and then high flying Everton, McClaren will be hoping for some much needed points on the road before our next home game three weeks from now against West Brom.