Sunday, October 23, 2011

Way (Cab)aye man!

Newcastle Utd 1 - 0 Wigan

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Dave! An otherwise undistinguished display was illuminated by a splendid late Yohan Cabaye goal which proved enough to secure us a rather fortuitous victory and send Whelan's Wigan to their sixth successive Premier League defeat. Dave would for once not be deluded in claiming that his side deserved a point - but that classy finish from the Frenchman nicknamed Dreamboat on Twitter was worthy of winning any game.

Alan Pardew's starting XI was unchanged for the fifth successive match, Cabaye being one of eight ever-presents. Eyebrows were only raised with the substitutes selected, Peter Lovenkrands and Dan Gosling replaced by Alan Smith and James Perch, the latter recently a loan target for Derby but apparently still part of Pardew's plans as long as Mike Williamson remains on the injured list.

What we boast in terms of form and confidence Wigan most definitely lack, so it was perhaps inevitable that we started out in casual and complacent fashion. Tim Krul was forced into a quite superb save to push Victor Moses' deflected volley onto the roof of the net and the dangerous Hugo Rodallega blasted wide when bearing down on goal, before being the recipient of a hefty challenge from Cabaye that earned our ultimate hero a booking.

When we did wake up, it was a gradual process, with a leisurely stretch and yawn, rather than by leaping up and into action, no alarm clock alerting us to it being a workday. Neat interplay between Raylor and Spidermag on the left resulted in the Argentine standing a beautifully flighted cross up to Leon O'Best, whose header was well beaten out by Ali Al Habsi. Saylor also went close, powering a header wide from a corner.

Pardew had what he referred to as "a little chat" with the players at the interval - not quite the stirring oratory of half-time in February's meeting with Arsenal, you'd imagine, but certainly enough to urge them into a hungrier and more purposeful second-half performance.

Key to that was the replacement of O'Best by HBA, who posed a different problem for Wigan's defence, dropping deeper to draw out defenders and seeking to take them on through the middle rather than always relying on service from the flanks. Even then, though, more possession, a few blocked shots and a flicked header from Ba that Al Habsi gratefully grabbed on the line were all we had to show for it - and Columbian Rodallega had again gone close, rippling Krul's side netting.

Pardew responded to the continued stalemate by replacing Ba, significantly less effective than in recent weeks, with Big Lad and Obertan Kenobe, surely in line to be dropped, with Sylvain Marveaux. The stage was set for Big Lad to repeat last weekend's trick, but it was actually Marveaux who had the bigger impact. He'd only been on the pitch for five minutes when his neat lay-off to the edge of the area was dispatched into Al Habsi's top corner by Cabaye. Desperately unlucky not to score against Villa last month, he richly deserved his first goal for the club.

Even then, Wigan could have scored, Saylor losing Mohamed Diame from a set-piece, but thankfully for us the French midfielder couldn't quite direct his header on target.

A decidedly scruffy win, then, and one (in Pardew's words) that was more "flat bitter" than "champagne football". But then I rather like bitter, I like clean sheets (and our defensive play being lauded by Messrs Hansen and Lawrenson on Match Of The Day) and I certainly like seeing us now level on points with Chelsea and five points clear of our closest challengers, fifth-placed Liverpool. Those who once again point to the quality of the opposition would do well to remember that this wasn't a fixture we won last season, or the season we were relegated.

A Wigan fan's verdict: Jesus Was A Wiganer (live Twitter updates)

Other reports: BBC, Guardian (in which TBW spots a red card offence by O'Best that no one else saw...)

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Anonymous Dan @ JWAW said...

Typical Guardian sensationalist bollocks, if you'll excuse my French. Anyone who saw Best's challenge more than once will know that it looked worse than it actually was, and a red card would have been harsh even from Howard Webb :P

Given many Latics fans branding NUFC as 'average' yesterday (comments I don't necessarily agree with), I am interested to know whether you, as a Newcastle fan, reckon it was a decent performance from the Toon or simply an extension of the winning mentality an unbeaten run can bring.

"Flat bitter"

-- Is it a case of 'job well done', not great but it got the result?

I reckon the winning goal deserved the result alone. Wigan couldn't match that. Congrats.

12:52 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Cheers. Nope, not a vintage performance - probably our second flattest of the season, after the QPR game which we were very lucky to draw. No disputing the quality of the goal, though - it's been coming.

I'd put the display down to a hint of complacency that looked worse when combined with raised expectation levels. Your lot did well to take the game to us, but we've just got that (perhaps dangerous) feeling of invincibility at the moment which, as you suggest, comes from being on a good run. Success breeds confidence, which breeds success etc.

I was slightly concerned that you'd been able to replace Di Santo with Rodallega, but he had a definite off-day. Ben Watson's a bit of an unsung player, too, but I fear for your defence and also find it hard to see where the goals are going to come from.

12:40 am  
Anonymous sbobet said...

That’s a good point, Worky. The goal conceded to Fulham was down to that. I’m not able to watch the full matches so I mostly rely on highlights and the blog’s general mood following a match. That and the match facts, but those don’t really tell the story. He’s only in the infancy of his career as a goal tender though, so hopefully the nuance will come.

6:20 am  

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