After a stuttering conclusion to the season Newcastle finally sealed promotion with a couple of games to spare following a 4-1 humbling of a Preston North End side who had nothing left to play for at either end of the table.
Neither the performance or score were really relevant as Newcastle just had to find a way to get those 3 precious points that meant promotion. And with the final whistle, a lap of honour from players and Rafa, and when the weeks have past, most will forget how tense those first 45 minutes were for all those in black and white.
Whether it was the pressure of a promotion run in or not, this team will need to be sorted for tougher tests ahead after just 3 wins in 9 games. That however, is a topic for another day.
For now all in black and white can gloat in the ground, at work and on social media as our return to our rightful place was secured.
Goals from Perez on 7 minutes and then Atsu on the stroke of half time following PNE’s equaliser would put NUFC 2-1 up at the break. The game had been pretty nervous until then but in the second half Newcastle put the game to bed when on 65 minutes the home side were awarded a penalty, duly converted by Ritchie, after Gallagher had handled the ball on the line receiving a straight red in the process. It would only be left for Perez to ‘shoulder’ a ball home after Shelvey’s corner came back off a post two minutes later to seal the win and send the Toon Army into Premier League heaven.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey (Colback, 76), Atsu (Gouffran, 68), Perez (Murphy, 83), Mitrovic
Rafa would hand a first start of the season to Rob Elliot whilst also welcoming Ciaran Clark back from injury.
They would also start brilliantly, and after Mitrovic had almost taken advantage of a bad bounce for the Preston keeper he would then see a great effort deflected wide for a corner.
From that set piece Newcastle would be ahead with Mitro again causing issues in the PNE box allowing Perez the room to nudge home from yards. It was just the start Rafa would have wanted but any thoughts this would calm the nerves were misplaced.
Having already shown their intent to hit Newcastle on the break, drawing a great save from Elliot, Preston would be back level on 14 minutes when another counter attack would allow Hugill to fire home to silence the St James Park crowd.
You could now feel the tension in the stadium but as the half moved on, and Preston growing more and more into the game, Newcastle would get a huge boost just before half time. With the clock ticking into injury time it would be Hayden who’d break up play following indecision in the Preston midfield and his pass to Mitrovic would then be brilliantly squared to Atsu who’s calm finish would leave the score 2-1 at half time and settle the nerves once more.
The second half would be a little more straight forward. And with Newcastle in control of the play they would finally put the game to bed following a great save on the line from Gallagher. The only issue for Preston being Gallagher isn’t a keeper and received a straight red for the privilege. After a little jostling for who should take it it would be the trust left boot of Ritchie who’d take responsibility and duly dispatch the spot kick to make it 3-1.
Now against 10 men Newcastle were firmly in control and could have added more then the one further goal they managed before the final whistle. Again a corner. Again a Perez goal. This time after the corner had gone right across the box and hit the opposite post only to rebound off Perez’ shoulder and into the empty net.
On the second half display the result was well deserved against a poor and injury hit Preston side.
And on the final whistle that mixture of relief and joy from everyone inside the stadium told the tale.
Newcastle back in the big time.
It’s the Prem next season lads and lasses.