Newcastle leapfrogged Brighton (who rather fortuitously ran out 2-1 winners on Friday night) back to the top of the Championship with an impressive 4-0 win over bottom placed Rotherham this afternoon.
Much was made before the game of the financial position of our opposition relative to Rafa’s millions (in spite of our £30m profit this season). Truth be known, the gap was palpable. Not that their travelling fans cared mind you with a magnificent travelling support of over 3,000 behind them their fans were a credit to the Championship’s beleaguered basement club.
Having rested several players for the FA Cup game in midweek there was a more familiar look to Newcastle’s starting eleven as Rafa and his patched up band of merry men went in search of back to back wins in the league for the first time since mid December.
The team wouldn’t let him down.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin (Sterry, 80), Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran (Ameobi, 64), Perez, Murphy (Lazaar, 75)
Key again, and with another man of the match performance would be our shaven headed midfield maestro. Back for this first league game since his lengthy FA ban, once again Shelvey showed just what we have missed whilst he has been away, building on his outstanding midweek performance.
Newcastle started the brighter and were on top for long periods of the game, although the outcome could have been very different had Newcastle, and Darlow in particular, not managed to dig themselves out of a self made hole early on. Darlow, attempting to keep the ball inside his box had to release the ball as he himself slid outside of the area leaving it in the path of Rotherham striker Jerry Yates who couldn’t believe his luck. But when it seemed almost certain the Magpies would conceded the most comical of goals a combination of desperate defending, some ‘Keystone Cops’ collisions and a cracking instinctive save managed to keep things at 0-0.
But just when it looked like Rotherham were going to make it to the break with a well fought point up would pop man of the moment Daryl Murphy to score his third of the season. That’s 3 in 3 starts for the big front man as injury continues to keep both Mitrovic and Gayle sidelined. What a shrewd piece of business from Rafa after all. Like anyone doubted that for a second. (Me thinks Rafa will be whispering some ‘I told you so’s’ in Carr’s general direction).
The goal will have made Rafa’s half time team talk that much easier, as although Newcastle had dominated the lack of turning chances into goals would have been a worry, with Perez coming closest on a couple of occasion to breaking the deadlock..
For Murphy it was yet another sign that he is more than capable of stepping into the shoes of Gayle with another fine finish, this time after Yedlin’s cross from a wonderful Shelvey free kick.
It wouldn’t take long for Newcastle to cement their position after the break however as first Ritchie would double the lead with his 10th of the season on 49 minutes after O’Donnell could only parry Gouffran’s low shot.
Ten minutes later it was game over. Another ball behind the Rotherham back line. Another great run and cross from Yedlin, only this time it was Perez on the end to stab him from close range.
With that goal coming just before the hour it was left only for Shelvey to pick our Ritchie for his second and Newcastle’s 4th with 10 minutes remaining to complete the demolition.
A good day at the office for all concerned.