Tuesday, February 23, 2010

End result

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Preston North End

A game more significant, at least in the eyes of some journalists, for what happened off the pitch than on, we once again ground out a solid win against mediocre opposition to keep us top of the table.

With Wayne Routledge out through injury, our midfield looked a little shy of the pace which has been such a creative force of late, and once Peter Lovenkrands had limped off after barely quarter of an hour, the visiting team were able to push slightly further up the pitch.

Lovenkrands' early goal (more back-post cross than visionary shot) settled any nerves, and meant that opponents coming to terms with life under new manager Darren Ferguson were always facing an uphill struggle.

That they managed to stay in the contest for so long was more to do with our own lack of fluency than any great efforts on the part of the visitors - although Steve Harper played his part by making a point-blank save with his face.

Once Kevin Nolan had played a neat one-two with Alan Smith to slot his first goal of 2010, the game was safe. Ryan Taylor's 90th minute goal, applying the finishing touch to a Fabrice Pancrate shot, added the coup de grace - although as Fergie Jr moaned after the game, the scoreline perhaps flattered us slightly,

For the press however, the most significant moment of the game appears to have been the chorus of "Only one Chris Hughton" which reverberated around St James' Park for the first time. He may not have been the populist choice at the start of the season, and his two caretaker spells last term did nothing to suggest that things would be different this season, but our Quiet Man has certainly done enough to earn the plaudits this season. Doubts may remain about how he will cope if we do go back up to the Premier League, but for the moment at least, he should be able to enjoy the acclaim. As with all things in football (e.g. Ashley Cole's marriage, club ownership, Portsmouth), chances are it won't last forever.

For the team however, the biggest result of the weekend came 24 hours later, with West Brom's defeat to Bristol City helping to maintain our five-point cushion at the top of the table.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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