Magpies are edging towards safety as ASM wreaks havoc once again
The things we learned from Newcastle’s game
NEWCASTLE United have taken a giant step towards safety following a 3-2 win against high-flying West Ham at St James’ Park.
The Magpies went into half-time 2-0 up after Isaa Diop put through his own net and Joelinton capitalised on a clanger from goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
However, West Ham, who had Craig Dawson sent off for a double booking in the first half, got back into the game after the break and Issa Diop and Jesse Lingard pulled the visitors level before substitute Joe Willock scored a late winner for Newcastle.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
Joe Willock makes another priceless contribution
While Joe Willock joined Newcastle to start more games in the Premier League, tellingly, the Arsenal loanee has not sulked when he has been benched.
You can be sure Willock was disappointed not to get on at Burnley last week and to not start against West Ham, but the midfielder made another priceless contribution from the bench with just his second touch on Saturday.
Willock had been working on his heading in the build-up to this game and, sure enough, the 21-year-old got on the end of Matt Ritchie’s teasing cross in the 82nd-minute to put Newcastle back in front.
Willock has scored three goals for Newcastle since joining the Magpies on deadline day and those crucial contributions against Southampton, Spurs and West Ham have secured seven priceless points.
If there is even a slight chance that Willock could be loaned out again next season, Newcastle have to position themselves at the front of the queue.
A huge step towards safety
Steve Bruce called this game a ‘really good opportunity to put even more daylight’ between the Magpies and the bottom three while Jacob Murphy went as far as to say that it was a ‘massive opportunity to psychologically as well as theoretically go up the table.’
Whereas Newcastle have occasionally been guilty of failing to back up those kinds of statements in recent months, the black-and-whites eventually secured a crucial win against West Ham and you can’t fault Bruce’s side’s
response since that
Brighton last month.
Having now moved nine points clear of Fulham, who travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal on Sunday, Newcastle have taken a huge step towards safety.
It is worth noting that Newcastle’s current haul of 35 points would have been enough to keep the Magpies up
at in each
Indeed, there were figures behind the scenes who privately believed that Newcastle were as good as safe following the Magpies’ 1-0 win at Southampton last season, which took Bruce’s side up to 35 points.
The challenge now, of course, is to end the campaign strongly with some
campaigns. good performances – even if there are some tricky fixtures ahead against Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Man City in the coming weeks.
A game promise
West Ham have raced out of the blocks in recent weeks – scoring all of their previous nine goals before the 48th minute – but the Hammers were initially stumped by Newcastle’s game plan on Saturday.
Newcastle dropped a little deeper than we have been used to of late and Steve Bruce appeared happy for West Ham to dominate possession in harmless areas of the pitch so that his side could then try and hit the visitors on the break.
At one point in the first half, West Ham had 70% of the ball but the Hammers, who are at their best when hitting teams on the counter, were simply not used to having so much possession.
Newcastle, who had a solid defen
that showed such
sive shape without the ball, essentially gave West Ham a taste of their own medicine in the opening 45 minutes as Allan Saint-maximin wreaked havoc on the counter-attack.
While West Ham were the architects of their own downfall for both Isaa Diop’s own goal and Joelinton’s second – goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski dropped a clanger – Newcastle crucially took full advantage.
The dominant Magpies had six shots on target in the first half – which was the most they have had this season.
But half-time instructions do not pay off
After such an encouraging first-half display, why did a strangely passive Newcastle allow 10-man West Ham to come back into it?
After the game, Steve Bruce revealed that the players were told at half-time ‘not to go deep’ and to instead ‘go after them’ and the Magpies’ head coach believed there would be further opportunities for his side on the counter-attack.
However, you got the impression that Newcastle felt they were home and hosed after the break as the hosts dropped deeper and deeper.
West Ham’s ambition was eventually rewarded in the 73rd-minute, when it was all too easy for Issa Diop to pull a goal back, but that header did little to awaken Newcastle from their slumber.
It was only when Jesse Lingard equalised from the spot seven minutes later that Newcastle finally started to have a go and it eventually paid off. Although Ben Johnson made a remarkable goal line clearance to deny Jacob Murphy in the 82th-minute, Willock headed his side back in front just seconds later.
Allan Saint-maximin wreaks havoc once again
Steve Bruce rarely tinkers with a winning side so, perhaps, it was not a
huge surprise that the Newcastle head coach only made one change for the visit of West Ham as Allan Saint-maximin made his first start since February.
Saint-maximin was a week ahead of Callum Wilson in his recovery, following their respective spells out with muscle injuries, so the Frenchman got the nod to start up front alongside Joelinton in Bruce’s 3-5-2 system.
Burnley’s defenders could not cope with Saint-maximin’s pace and trickery when the mercurial forward changed the game from the bench last week and West Ham’s backline did not relish coming up against the 24-yearold from the off.
It brought back memories reverse fixture last season, of the when
Saint-maximin tormented Pablo Zabaleta at the London Stadium, and no matter how many times West Ham attempted to kick Newcastle’s talisman, he repeatedly managed to wriggle free.
Time after time, in the first half at least, Saint-maixmin drove forward from deep and galloped into space, and West Ham’s worried defenders never looked comfortable.
While a dazzled Issa Diop ultimately put through his own net for Newcastle’s opener in the 36th minute, after getting his wires crossed with Fabianski, it was far from a coincidence that Saint-maximin was heavily involved in the build-up after the Frenchman raced clear, turned Mark Noble inside out and got a shot away.