Monday, August 23, 2010

Heroes and Villans

Newcastle Utd 6 (six!) - 0 Aston Villa

Six glorious goals in the sunshine marked the return of Premier League football to St James' Park yesterday, with a feast of football reminiscent of the attacking football we produced when we first climbed into the Premiership ranks during Keegan's first spell as manager.

Deploying the same 4-4-1-1 formation which wasn't quite so successful on Monday night, Newcastle's midfield trio of Smith, Nolan and Begbie took control of the midfield within the first fifteen minutes and didn't let go for the rest of the match.

However, it could all have been so different had John Carew not blasted an early penalty high over the Gallowgate bar after Steve Harper had brought down Ashley Young.

That miss was, however, Villa's best chance of salvaging something from the match as within two minutes Spidermag had fed Begbie who swivelled and fired a 25-yard shot into the top corner of Brad Friedel's goal and in doing so settled nerves both on and off the pitch.

From that point on it was largely one-way traffic and sure enough Newcastle added a second when Kevin Nolan headed in Bigger Lad's cross at the second time of asking to make it 2-0.

Bigger Lad himself then got on the score sheet when he slotted home from Begbie's corner after Richard Dunne had made a mess of his attempted clearance to give us a three goal cushion at half time.

The second half saw Newcastle continue where they left off, with Villa second best in the middle of the park and unable to pose a serious attacking threat.

Bigger Lad added another, firing home after Mike Williamson met another Begbie corner and the ball dropped at the feet of our latest number 9.

WIth Villa fading fast, Chris Hughton threw on Big Lad, the Xisco Kid and Ryan Taylor and it was Big Lad who turned provider, heading another corner back into the six yard box for Nolan to volley his second.

Not to be outdone, it was Bigger Lad who had the final say when he picked up the ball on halfway and knocked a long pass out to the Xisco Kid on our left. The Spaniard then played the ball back into the path of our onrushing striker who stroked the ball calmly home to complete his first senior hat-trick for the club, and the first seen at SJP since Shearer scored five against Sheffield Wednesday over a decade ago.

Whilst we'll undoubtedly have far worse afternoons this season, what this showed is firstly that a Martin O'Neill-less Villa side have got some serious problems, but equally that as a team we are more than equipped to compete in this league, and that Bigger Lad is going to cause a lot of defenders a lot of problems.

As a team we're competitive in midfield and have plenty of height to worry teams at set-pieces - something Mike Williamson in particular demonstrated repeatedly throughout this match.

If we can keep everyone fit then 17th or better looks an eminently achievable goal, but Hughton will appreciate that if we can add a couple more players before the transfer window closes next week we'll be better placed to withstand the rigours of the top flight.

What this result means is the end of Begbie's 'tache (and from our point of view a return to ASBO), but hopefully not an end to performances like this, when his claims that he's one of the best midfielders in the country don't look quite so ridiculous.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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