Chalk and Cheese.
After watching quite possibly the most abject performance from any team in that of Newcastle’s at Everton on Wednesday last week, what we witnessed today at St James Park was quite possibly even worse. To huge relief though not this time from Newcastle United but from the visitors West Brom.
In what was dubbed, probably quite rightly, as a must win game for the Magpies, it would transpire that facing the west midlands side could not have been better timed.
McClaren’s side would dominate from start to finish, and even the expected jitters that a 1-0 lead would usually bring in the last few minutes would fail to transpire. Indeed, all of the talking points would centre around how and why his team did not win by a greater margin. They certainly should have.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Aarons, Colo, Taylor, Janmaat, Tiote, Shelvey (Saivet, 90), Townsend (Perez, 88), Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Mitrovic
Wor Stevie was forced make some changes to his starting lineup, whilst others were obviously a result of our defeat midweek.
in would come Steven Taylor for the injured Mbemba and banned Lascelles. Aarons would start at left back in place of the injured Dummett with Mbabu and Haidara continuing to suffer the same fate. Whilst in midfield the Toon boss would opt for the back in favour Tiote over Saivet (following the collapse of his move to China last week) and Mitrovic would be recalled up front with Perez dropping to the bench.
All of the changes would prove to work out just fine. The combination of Aarons and Townsend on the left flank (although the ex Spurs man would swap with Sissoko on occasion) would add a much needed threat down Newcastle’s left side. Quite whether they would be allowed so much time and freedom to push forward against a better team is very questionable.
In midfield Tiote would look calm and assured, in particular dealing with the brute size and strength of the ample framed Anichebe. Jonjo would look more like the England International we saw in the West Ham game than the clogger we were seemingly exposed to in his performance against the Toffees.
And whilst both Shelvey and Townsend would be inspirational for the 90 and 88 minutes respectively played, perhaps the most significant praise should be saved for much maligned Mitrovic.
The Newcastle front man would prove the match winner, yet it initially looked like it may be another one of ‘those days’ for our number 45.
The attitude of Mitro has never been in question. It is his goalscoring, or rather lack of, that has lead many to question his position in the team. And whilst Perez looked way out of his depth up from on his own last week, many had questioned if Doumbia would not have been a better choice as the team sheets were made public before the game.
And in the early stages the signs were perhaps that the goal drought would continue as Mitrovic fired towards goal from barely 3 yards out only to see Foster pull of a great save.
The first half hour had seen Newcastle totally dominate what could barely even be described as a contest with 83% possession.
Both Mitrovic and Wijnaldum could well have then broken the deadlock when they failed to gamble on making a run that would have resulted in a tap in from a delicious Sissoko cross.
Then on the half hour the deadlock was broken. Well so we all thought.
After another Magpies corner the ball was cleared to Tiote who smashed a side foot shot in from 35 yards. As those in black and white chased the delighted Tiote to the Magpies bench the West Brom players ran in the opposite direction towards the linesman claiming their keepers line of sight had been obstructed by Mitrovic who had been left in an offside position. After much deliberation between Mason who had already given the goal and his assistant, the referee inexplicably reversed his decision to the derision of most of the 51,000+ fans inside St James.
The reprieve would prove temporary for West Brom.
On 32 minutes Shelvey would find Mitrovic who would race clear of the WBA defence before cooly slotting the ball beneath the onrushing keeper to give Newcastle a deserved lead.
Newcastle would continue to create chances, and even the introduction of Berahino at half time by Pulis would not result in what would have been the anticipated demoralising headlines were he to have scored.
After the few West Brom fans who had bothered to make the not exactly difficult journey North went crazy on 60 minutes as their team finally had a shot (their sarcastic teasing of their own team very much deserved), the Black and Whites would go on to create two more wonderful chances.
Firstly a great run from Townsend saw him run from right to left of the opposition box before cutting back to his right and hitting the base of Fosters post. And then Sissoko who would race past the Baggies defence only to see his curling low shot go agonisingly wide.
A second goal would have been no more the McClaren’s men deserved. In the end though they would have to settle for just the one goal but a precious three points. Points that would lift Newcastle United Football Club out of the bottom three for the first time in ‘like....forever’!
VERDIT: A fantastic and battling performance from Mitrovic, topped with that much needed goal made him our man of the match. Having said that the award could easily have gone to any number of Newcastle’s players. Shelvey and in particular Townsend were exactly what we had hoped they would be. Aarons, not tested going back, made an impressive home left back appearance, whilst even a ‘robust’ looking Taylor (who was clearly breathing out of his backside well before the end of the game) made a pretty heroic return to the starting line up. There will be many and much tougher tests for NUFC before the end of the season. But this was a test passed. Thank god!
Stats provided by BBC