Walking back to unhappiness is hammer blow for Toon revival
Newcastle United 0 West Ham United 3
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