Thursday, February 18, 2010

A right royal Routledge-inspired rout

Newcastle Utd 4 - 1 Coventry City

It was very much a case of lightning striking twice on Tyneside tonight - not only did we win our second consecutive home game by some distance and against in-form opposition, but we managed to notch up a 4-1 victory over Coventry 11 years to the day since achieving exactly the same feat, even down to replicating the same pattern of scoring.

City's tormentor-in-chief was the superb Wayne Routledge, but thrust was restored to the left flank too with the return of Spiderman from injury. Kevin Nolan and Danny Guthrie were paired in a forward-thinking central midfield, and after Saturday's dismal displays had reason to feel a bit embarrassed that it was Alan Smith who was sacrificed, while Chris Hughton also decided to recall Mike Williamson at One Size's expense.

With the Baggies back on top thanks to a battling draw at Cardiff and Forest closing the gap to third to just two points with a similarly hard-fought victory over Sheffield Utd, a sharp start was imperative - shame, then, that it was Coventry who made it, Sammy Clingan forcing Steve Harper into a save inside the first minute and then Nolan having to clear off the line shortly afterwards.

But then we began to click and could have taken an early lead ourselves if Peter Lovenkrands had only planted his header from Spiderman's cross further to either side of City 'keeper Keiren Westwood. The Guthrie corners started to mount up, with Williamson heading astray from one and his defensive partner Fabricio Coloccini doing likewise shortly afterwards, the Argentinian trying his luck again just before the half-hour.

And then, completely against the run of play, Coventry sneaked in front through Clinton Morrison. But what might have deflated the players, given the last two performances, actually served to stir them into decisive action - no one more so than Routledge, who just two minutes later drew us level with a peach of a volley that will be among the most aesthetically pleasing first-goals-for-the-club we're like to see, hapless jug-eared ex-Mackem Stephen Wright helpfully providing the assist.

The pressure was sustained until half-time and, importantly, beyond. The visitors were only able to hold out for eight minutes after the break, Bigger Lad continuing his recent goal streak by nodding us in front from Nolan's cross. The looming court case looks less welcome with every passing game.

Coventry came into the fixture in good shape, one noteable recent scalp being Forest's - but we were showing scant gratitude for their assistance and extended our advantage with 20 minutes left. Having already been booked for an earlier foul on Bigger Lad, Leon Barnett could have few complaints about being red-carded for a bungled tackle on Routledge in the area, and Lovenkrands rifled home the consequent penalty.

It was the Dane's last act of the night, with the stage perfectly set for his replacement Leon Best to twist the knife against his former employers and ensure our goal difference is superior to the Baggies', as well as our points total. But it was actually the other two subs who combined to that effect, Fabrice Pancrate's injury-time cross missed by Best but knocked in by Ryan Taylor to bring to an end a very satisfactory evening's work.

The margin and manner of the win goes some way to banishing the memory of the recent poor performances on the road, though we can't ignore the fact that our away form has to improve and should be mindful that the demolition of Cardiff was immediately followed by a pitiful capitulation to the supposedly inferior Derby. However, Preston won't be relishing the trip from the North West on Saturday, particularly as they're fresh from conceding five at Pride Park, the last three of which furious manager Fergie Jr described as "absolute nonsense". In this kind of form, there's no need to give generously - our forwards will take anyway.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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