Monday, April 23, 2012

Ab fab, Cab

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Stoke City

It just gets better and better, doesn't it?

Overshadowed by his fellow Francophone team-mates HBA and Papiss Cisse in recent weeks, Dreamboat turned in a superb individual display on Saturday, contributing two goals and an assist described by the Silver Fox as "exquisite". The other headline news as Tony Pulis' perennial party poopers were blown away was the fact that Cisse was on target for the sixth successive game, a record in this season's Premier League. To say he's hit the ground running would be an understatement...

The enforced two-week lay-off as a result of Chelsea's continued involvement in the FA Cup could potentially have worked against us, disrupting our momentum, but in actual fact it had no discernible impact at all except for allowing us to nurse Mr T back to health and, if anything, we were better than against Bolton on Easter Monday.

On that occasion, it had taken a flash of genius from HBA to break the deadlock, and once again his involvement was critical. Having teased and beaten Marc Wilson with ease, he stood up a cross to the back post and, when Cisse's header came back of the bar, Dreamboat was lurking to nod home.

The Silver Fox's decision to move Spidermag inside and push the former Lille man further forward was paying instant dividends - underlined just four minutes later, when his astonishingly precise through-ball picked out the ever eager Cisse, whose left-footed finish beat Asmir Begovic and crept inside the post. 2-0, then, and less than twenty minutes played - how the visitors must have been rueing Jon Walters' hopelessly skied volley when the game was still goalless.

With Cisse seemingly unable to stop scoring, the pressure has been taken off his compatriot Demba Ba, who has only found the net once since returning from the African Cup of Nations. In fairness, though, Ba has been asked to perform in a different role since Cisse's arrival for the good of the team and went close on a couple of occasions, as did Davide Santon, up from left-back with a right-footed shot that Begovic had to go full-length to stop.

Into the second period and the sumptuous football continued, with Dreamboat central to everything. Cisse thought he'd added a third, rounding Begovic and tapping in after the Stoke 'keeper had spilled Ba's fizzing drive, only to be denied (wrongly, perhaps) by the linesman's flag. We didn't have to wait long to extend our lead, though, Dreamboat bringing to an end a short bout of pinball with a delicious bouncing curler into the far corner from the edge of the box.

That was one of his last acts before making way, his replacement Perchinho immediately called upon to block a Peter Crouch shot. That ensured that complacency wasn't allowed to set in, and in truth we could easily have boosted our steadily improving goal difference even further. Seemingly determined to bag another goal against the club who rejected him, Ba kept trying his luck without success and Sideshow Bob nodded an HBA corner just wide of the post. The closest we came to a fourth, though, were a couple of long-range thunderbolts from the boot of Mr T, both of which asked stern questions of Begovic.

Cisse followed Dreamboat off, Big Lad putting in his customary cameo, while Danny Simpson was also withdrawn as the clock wound down. The luxury of being able to use substitutions to rest players is practically unheard of on Tyneside, so it was just another bonus on a day when pretty much everything went for us.

With Chelsea drawing 0-0 in a dour affair at the Emirates and Spurs put to the sword by old boy Adel Taarabt, our sixth consecutive victory (and fourth consecutive clean sheet) was enough to see us seize fourth spot, three points ahead of fifth-placed Spurs and just three behind third-placed Arsenal, and with a game in hand too. Everton's failure to win at Old Trafford means that we're now guaranteed of European football of some description next season, while Wigan's wobble at Fulham suggests they may be losing the exceptional form that saw them beat Man Utd and Arsenal in consecutive matches just in time for Saturday's trip to the DW Stadium.

However, that 4-4 draw at Old Trafford combined with the Man City victory that relegated Wolves means that the title can't be settled by the Manchester derby on the 30th, and therefore that our one remaining home game, against City, will be a tougher proposition than it might have been. Away fixtures at Chelsea and Everton don't make for pleasant reading either - but the fact is that performances like this mean our opponents all have increasingly good reason to fear us too.

Other reports: BBC, Observer

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