Guest post by James Robinson:
As I prepared to go to my first Newcastle match in over a year (student budgets are tight) I couldn’t help feel a little nervous.
To me, that’s a sad indication of the times – Norwich at home, once seen as an easy win, was now causing me, amongst many others, genuine concern. Still, as the buzz in the city began to grow, and as St James’ Park came into view, I felt hopeful – normally a dangerous prospect as a Newcastle fan.
For once, though, I was not disappointed. Rather, I was shocked. Amazed. I could have easily believed I was dreaming. I thought someone must have slipped some LSD into my pre-match bottle of Brown Ale. But no – when I woke up this morning, it was there in black and white; a 6-2 win.
SIX. Newcastle haven’t scored six in a game since 2010 against Aston Villa, but what made this result even more surprising is the much publicised dreadful run of form Newcastle have been going through. Nobody expected that result, that’s for sure.
It’s typical of the ongoing soap opera that is Newcastle United that we concede six in a woeful display one game, and then in the next come out all guns blazing and put six in the right end. We must hold the title for the most unpredictable team in the league.
On that day in 2010, it was Andy Carroll who was the hat trick hero, but yesterday Gini Wijnaldum was the man of the moment, netting a frankly ridiculous four goals – the first Newcastle player to score four + goals in a game since Alan Shearer. And for such a small player – he stands at just 5 foot 9 – he can’t half jump to head a ball. If I was a man for football clichés, I’d say he leaps like a salmon.
Such was the Dutchman’s impact that it was easy to forget the quality goals scored by Perez and Mitrovic – although it must be said that Perez could be seen as a little lucky. Saying that, there was nothing fortunate about Mitrovic’s strike – a brilliant goal lashed into the back of the net, which one internet user likened to an Alan Shearer goal. Perhaps it’s a little early for such comparisons, but nonetheless, it was a cracking strike.
However, whilst the forward play was both devastating and beautiful to behold, it merely papered over the huge, gaping gaps that are still present at the back. In the first half, the side were carved open far too easily by the likes of Nathan Redmond – who gave Paul Dummett a torrid time in the opening twenty minutes.
It’s clear that the defence is still too fragile, and that the wingers (Sissoko and Gini) do not track back enough – although this was somewhat remedied later in the second half – and that there’s plenty of work to be done. Sissoko too, noticeably shied away from a few fifty-fifty challenges, which got a few sections of the crowd on his back – although going forward, he was excellent.
Whilst it was undoubtedly a brilliant performance, we should remember that it was against an out of form Norwich side, who are now without a win in their last four. Some of the canaries defending was comical, as good as the attacking play by Newcastle was, and we simply cannot rely on our opposition being so poor in future games – we’re not going to score six every week, are we?
Still, it was a cracking win, and it should be celebrated as such. It was fantastic to be stood in the Gallowgate end again actually cheering, rather than booing the team off at half time or yelling for the manager to be sacked. The atmosphere was brilliant, it made me proud to be a Newcastle United fan – and that’s not something I’ve been able to say for a long, long time.
Hopefully, the team can build from here, improve defensively and get out of trouble. In any case, a 6-2 win is the best preparation we could hope for with next week’s derby looming large – I honestly believe that if we play with that kind of attacking intent, we can end this horrific run of derby losses and restore some local pride. Saying that, my fingers remain well and truly crossed.