Walk­ing back to un­hap­pi­ness is ham­mer blow for Toon re­vival

New­cas­tle United 0 West Ham United 3

Sunday Sun - - Football - Chris Waugh New­cas­tle United Writer [email protected]­plc.com

NEW­CAS­TLE United’s re­cent re­vival was brought to an abrupt end as West Ham United de­servedly beat the Mag­pies 3-0 at St James’ Park.

Javier Her­nan­dez scored in ei­ther half for the visi­tors be­fore Felipe An­der­son added a third in in­jury time as the Ham­mers con­demned New­cas­tle to their first loss since Oc­to­ber.

Here, NUFC Writer Chris Waugh takes us through what we learned.

1. The 11th-minute walk-in falls flat – as West Ham score just as pro­tes­tors take their seats

Yes­ter­day marked the first oc­ca­sion when the Mag­pie Group – a col­lec­tive of fans’ groups who are de­ter­mined to con­vince owner Mike Ash­ley to sell up, or at the very least back Ben­itez in the trans­fer mar­ket – took their demon­stra­tions in­side St James’ Park.

Protests against the bil­lion­aire – who placed the club up for sale al­most 14 months ago – had been held out­side Sports Di­rect on Northum­ber­land Street in New­cas­tle, as well as op­po­site the club shop on Straw­berry Place, Ay­oze Perez had a shock­ing game through­out the first three months of this sea­son.

Yet the Mag­pie Group en­cour­aged sup­port­ers to stage an 11th-minute walk-in against West Ham, whereby fans would wait on the con­course un­til af­ter kick-off, be­fore tak­ing their seats 11 min­utes into the game – Ash­ley has been owner 11 years.

Un­for­tu­nately for the pro­tes­tors, they en­tered the sta­dium – al­most in­evitably – at the mo­ment Her­nan­dez slot­ted past Martin Dubravka.

There were sev­eral hun­dred fans who opted to demon­strate but it was not the mass move­ment hoped for.

What’s more, Ash­ley him­self was not even at St James’ Park to wit­ness the protest, with the Sports Di­rect busi­ness­man ab­sent for the sec­ond game in suc­ces­sion, hav­ing been present for the pre­vi­ous seven matches in a row.

The walk-in was in­tended to be a pre­cur­sor to the pro­posed boy­cott which the Mag­pie Group is at­tempt­ing to rally sup­port for ahead of next week­end, when they are aim­ing to per­suade fans to stay away en­tirely for the clash with Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers.

But whether there will be much ap­petite now, given that this walk-in was not nearly as wide­spread as many hoped, re­mains to be seen.

2. The sooner Paul Dum­mett is fit, the bet­ter

Ben­itez was never likely to make a raft of changes to the side who de­feated Burn­ley on Mon­day night, but the key de­ci­sion the New­cas­tle man­ager had to make was to whether he switched back to his of­ten used 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion.

At Turf Moor – partly in or­der to com­pen­sate for Paul Dum­mett’s ab­sence, West Ham spent a re­ported £36mil­lion but also in an at­tempt to deal with Burn­ley’s two old-fash­ioned cen­tre­for­wards – Ben­itez switched to a fluid 5-4-1 sys­tem in which Ciaran Clark part­nered Fabian Schar and Fed­erico Fer­nan­dez at the heart of New­cas­tle’s de­fence.

Al­though all three im­pressed, Clark was al­ways likely to be the fall guy against the Ham­mers, given the fact Schar and Fer­nan­dez have com­ple­mented each other so well in re­cent weeks.

Man­quillo has never con­vinced dur­ing his time in Eng­land, but he is a full­back by trade, and that is seem­ingly why Ben­itez gave his com­pa­triot the nod.

How­ever, the 24-year-old did not ex­actly grasp his chance. Robert

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