Newcastle United continued their excellent run of form with an impressive 2-0 win away to Championship hopefuls Derby County in the late kick off in front of the Sky cameras.
The win moves Rafa’s side up to a far more respectable position of 2nd in the league, 4 points behind high pace setters Huddersfield at the top and above Barnsley on goal difference.
In a pretty even game the difference would be Newcastle’s extra quality at both ends.
STARTING XI: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Colback, Gouffran (Yedlin, 73), Diame (Hayden, 88), Galye (Perez, 76)
Starting with a familiar looking side, despite the arrival of several players before deadline day, Newcastle would settle quickly into the game, dominating proceedings in the early stages.
The strength in depth of the squad now very evident, as the like to Anita (outstanding recently), Gouffran (more on him in a moment) and Dummett all keeping their places, adding to the settled start NUFC would make. Whilst the likes of Murphy, Atsu and Hanley would not even make the bench.
Key for the day would be how compact Rafa would have his men play. Both Gouffran and Ritchie would put in a huge shift on the flanks supporting Dummett and the excellent Anita, whilst Colback would also sit deep for spells making a virtual wall at times and posing a question that Derby just had no answer to, ‘break us down if you can’.
Whilst this approach can be frustrating to watch at times meaning we gift the opposition time a space in their own half and often in the central third too, it is however very effective.
Rafa has also brought in more pace meaning a counter attacking style like this should be very effective, and with Yedlin, Lazaar, and Atsu all still to get any serious game time this threat is only going to increase over the season.
Today though it would be two moments of brilliance that would separate the sides. Firstly an in-swinging Shelvey corner from the left would clear everyone in the Derby box only to fall to Gouffran’s right foot and for him to smash a delicious volley back across goal and past the despairing Carson in the Derby goal to make it 1-0. The goal would come after twenty minutes and to this point Newcastle had probably just shaded things.
And whilst Derby would have a couple of good efforts, most notably hitting the bar from their best player Anya, although even this was a mis-hit cross as the United back line held firm. Even on the odd occasion Sels was called into action he did all that was asked of him with a particularly good save from a long range Bryson drive.
The second moment of decisive class would come from Shelvey. With Newcastle earning a corner deep into stoppage time it should have been a case of keeping the ball in the corner and running down time. But after a short corner was played to our bald number 12 he would spot an unmarked Perez who’d pulled off his man at the far post into space. An exquisite, inch perfect ball would be cushioned back into the the six yard box by the Spaniard for an onrushing Yedlin to somehow bundle a scrappy finish into the Derby goal. Que the obligatory bedlam in the away end as Newcastle would seal all three points.
The win would secure Newcastle’s 4th straight league win, five in a row including the league cup and would also mean 4 clean sheets in a row in all competitions. Now two games into a really tricky run of fixtures with maximum points it is QPR away next on Tuesday. Onwards and upwards - we hope!