It’s like after the LordMayors show tonight with an away game against Cardiff following so quickly after our promotion securing win against Preston on Monday.
A raft of changes tonight saw starting births for Mbemba, Yedlin, Colback, Diame and Murphy all come in whilst Elliot was given the armband on his second start of the season. One of the changes was enforced with Ritchie banned for the last two games of the campaign, the rest were rested to ‘give fresh legs’ a run out Rafa confirmed.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Yedlin, Clark, Mbemba, Dummett, Colback (Shelvey, 73), Hayden, Atsu, Diame, Perez (Sterry, 90), Murphy (Mitrovic, 66)
The first half hour was a pretty quiet affair, depute Cardiff having the ball into the net twice, both correctly ruled out once for a foul and one for offside.
With Newcastle creating nothing of note until the 36th minute. A great pass found Yedlin who’d make an incisive run in behind the fullback to find himself clear of the Cardiff defence. With not the easiest angle Yedlin’s low and hard drive would see a great save from McGregor.
Mbemba would then have a dig from distance from a rare first half corner but hitting the ball into the ground it would clear both keeper and bar on the bounce.
Then some great work in the box from Perez in the box should have seen Newcastle awarded a penalty. Perez perhaps too honest for his own good in not going down when clearly having his shirt pulled in clear view of the referee.
0-0 at half time then with Newcastle easing their way into the game as the first half wore on.
Into the second half Newcastle looked to press home the momentum they’d built up in the first.
It would take 10 minutes though to find the breakthrough.
Atsu, having not been in the game first half, was starting to grow into the contest. And it would be he who both made and converted the Newcastle breakthrough. A jinking run into the heart of the Cardiff penalty area saw him brought down 20 yards from goal, just right of centre. And when he claimed the free kick, fear enough with the absence of both Ritchie and Shelvey from the starting line up, not many would have seen the next moment coming.
It was as sublime as it was unexpected in it’s beauty. The nonchalant step up to the ball, the caress of the finish, the shock on the face of a keeper who stood like stone as the ball was placed into that place they call the postage stamp. Genius!
That goal seemed to sway the game now firmly toward the visitors who, rather than sitting back and protecting the lead seemed intent on grabbing another.
And they duly did with another superb finish, form another unlikely scorer, this time Hayden. And when he picked the ball up fully 30 yards form goal you’d not have seen the hit coming. McGregor certainly didn’t.
A tremendous finish and Newcastle 2-0 up after 65 minutes.
It should have been game over and was. Cardiff, to be fair, had a bit of a go in the last stages and should have really had one back, maybe more, when Noone missed a couple of great chances. In truth through it was Newcastle if anyone who looked most likely to push on and get the third goal.
And for a while it seemed like the team were all pushing to get Mitrovic, now on for Murphy, a chance to get a goal that would have been celebrated by his teammates as much as the fans one feels.
No such luck however, although Newcastle would celebrate their 14th win on their travels this season. That, a new record for away wins for Newcastle United Football Club, surpassing the 13 achieved under Kevin Keegan.
The result puts Newcastle just a point behind Brighton and will keep them honest in their pursuit of the Championship title, although a very likely win against Bristol City tomorrow afternoon will finish that race as a contest once and for all.
Another great away day. Another 3 points.