Rotherham 0-1 Newcastle United
A couple of changes today saw Yedlin dropped and Ritchie rested as Rafa decided to use the depth in his squad against bottom side Rotherham.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Dummett, Clark, Lascelles, Anita, Gouffran, Colback, Shelvey, Atsu (Ritchie, 66), Diame (Haney, 86), Gayle (Mitrovic, 78)
With Rotherham having the worst defensive record in the Championship and Newcastle United having scored more goals than any other team in the league the selections looked justified before the match.
And it was the hosts that started the brightest, playing with the freedom of a side that were expected to get nothing from the game. And it was Rotherham who would come closest in the early stages when a drive from distance from the right would cannon off the bar and into the crowd.
The bottom side looked sharper in every department from the off and although Rafa had set his team up to be solid as usual but would take longer than usual to settle into the game.
Just before though, the breakthrough. And it would be a first goal from Atsu after picking the ball up on the right and curling an outstanding finish past the despairing Lee Camp in the Rotherham goal. 1-0 Newcastle and so it would remain until half time.
In the second half an unchanged Newcastle would start better than they had in the first. And when Diame played our nr 30 in again he almost doubled his and Newcastle’s tally having raced clear only for the Rotherham keeper to get the ends of his fingers on the ball and guide it wide.
As the match moved past the hour mark it was getting pretty scrappy. A hand in the face of Gouffran had already left him with a bloody nose and things in the middle of midfield were also starting to get tasty with Shelvey leaving a little bit on his opposite number.
On 65 minutes it could and perhaps should have been 2-0 though when Atsu dropped a lovely ball into the box Diame would find himself unmarked on the penalty spot but his powerful effort would be blocked by a last ditch tackle when a goal seemed certain.
On 70 minutes it was Shelvey’s turn to test the keeper with Newcastle now starting to assert some real control on the match. This time is was a 30 yard effort which could only be parried wide for another corner to the Mags.
With 20 minutes to go though it did seem like Newcastle would need a second just to see this one out.
A wonderful corner from Shelvey would see Clark then miss a great chance with the ball hitting the big defenders shoulder when a decent connection with his head would surely have meant a goal.
With Matt Ritchie already having entered the fray, Mitro would then come on for Gayle for the last 12 minutes.
Cue the late pressure from the home side. A succession of corners and long throws now had Newcastle pinned back on their own goal line. And during the onslaught a Gouffran deflection onto his own post and then clearance off his own goal line from Clark would both be required to keep Rotherham at bay.
Rafa would need to throw Hanley on for Diame in the dying moments but even with 5 minutes of injury time added at the end of the game Newcastle would see out the game in relevant comfort.
Another 3 points. Unbeaten in 5 away, including 4 wins. That will do as we move into the International break.