Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Not for the faint hearted

West Bromwich Albion 2 - 3 Newcastle Utd

The slow march to survival took a major step forward following a good victory away to relegation rivals West Brom on Saturday.

With JFK being escorted off the premises and away to hospital to have his blood pressure monitored, it was Chris Hughton and new coaching addition Colin Calderwood taking control of matters on the pitch. They handed a first starts to new boys Ryan Taylor and Peter Lovenkrands, both of whom went on to have a positive impact on the match.

The game itself was only a a minute or so old when Ameobi tried to slide the ball through for Damien Duff. On a different day, against better opposition, his pass would have been cut out, but Baggies defender Leon Barnett allowed the ball to run past him, and Duff coolly slotted the ball past Scott Carson to give us an early lead.

West Brom roused themselves, and after some pretty poor attempts to clear our lines by Enrique and Coloccini, the ball was eventually presented to Borja Valero by Nicky Butt's poor control. His cross-field ball saw Fortune rushing goalwards, and as he turned, marker Steven Taylor fell over, allowing the on-loan striker to knock the ball past Steve Harper and level the scores.

Pleasingly though, and undoubtedly buoyed by our having already notched an early goal, we bounced back, with Duff turning provider with a cross to the back post. The ball was intercepted before it could find its intended recipient, but fortunately the Baggies failed to clear their lines and it fell nicely for Lovenkrands to mark his first start with a first goal for the club.

With neither side demonstrating anything approaching calm authority and defensive solidity, it was inevitable that more goals would follow, and sure enough Ryan Taylor's 41st minute corner was headed home by the unmarked and unchallenged Steven Taylor at the back post to give us a two goal cushion. Worse marking you would fail to find in a primary school match.

The second half carried on in the same vein as the first, and when Fortune added a second for the home side, it ensured the last twenty minutes weren't for the faint hearted. However, with Mark Viduka trundling off the bench to give us some more solidity upfront, and display his ability to hold the ball up and alleviate some pressure, we ensure that we took all three points back to Tyneside.

Winning a game which was widely regarded as a "must win" is a deeply satisfying feeling, and hopefully it will give the squad a much-needed boost going into the international break. If we can pick up a couple more wins and draws in the next few matches, then the world will start feeling a much happier place. For now though, those three points, when coupled with other results going our way, ensured that we go into the break 13th in the table. If we're still there in May, I think we'd all be happy.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian, nufc.com


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