Thursday, March 18, 2010

Deadly duo do it again (and again, and again)

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Scunthorpe Utd

Back in October, when Scunthorpe inflicted a defeat on us, I commented that the result demonstrated that beyond our first-choice central defensive pairing, our squad wasn't strong enough to sustain us through the long slog ahead.

Whilst we struggled to come to terms with conditions at Scunthorpe, on the back of a poor performance at Nottingham Forest, our season looked like it might be falling apart.

With one half of our first-choice defensive pairing missing, it could have been a repeat story last night, but Hughton has strengthened the squad since those dark October days and, going into the match with a nine point and two game cushion over third-placed Forest, we easily outclassed a Scunthorpe side who were the ones left ruing their defensive shortcomings.

As early as the tenth minute, Bigger Lad had nodded home from a Danny Guthrie corner to give us a lead we never looked like losing. With his equally in-form strike partner Peter Lovenkrands adding a second, following a neat pass from Wayne Routledge, the game was safe as early as the 22nd minute. And this after a Kevin Nolan effort had been chalked off and Lovenkrands had struck the crossbar.

Guthrie again turned provider in the second half, his long pass setting Bigger Lad free to chip the ball into the Gallowgate net, and the team wrapped up a comfortable victory without ever needing to find top gear.

On the positives, the recent performances of Guthrie in his preferred central midfield birth coupled with the in-form strike pairing have seen us hit a rich vein at just the right time (contrast that with Forest's recent collapse in confidence, which has seen them drop well away from West Brom).

Bitter experience has taught me (and Steve Harper) that a twelve point lead with a game in hand can be overturned - but it's particularly reassuring to see that in his post-match comments Chris Hughton remains as focused as ever.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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