Newcastle maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a well deserved 3-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at St James’ Park yesterday afternoon.
The win means that we maintain our top four status and are now unbeaten in six league games this season, eight if you count league cups, eleven if you count the back end of last season aswell. We won’t go unbeaten forever, and we probably won’t maintain our top four status, but my word it’s great at the moment.
Alan Pardew stuck with the same side that drew with Aston Villa last weekend at the expense of the team who played in the Carling Cup at midweek. The headlines will say that there was nine changes to the team, but in truth it was expected. The only real change was the inclusion of Hatem Ben Arfa who had to settle for space on the bench.
The home side started brightly and forced a succession of early corners although, unfortunately, nothing came of them to anything although Cheik Tiote fired wide from one of Yohan Cabaye’s corners. Gabriel Obertan then swung a cross in from the the right which Leon Best swung over the bar. For all the hosts dominance the need for a goal was apparent. Blackburn rarely threatened but you got the sense that the longer the game stayed at 0-0 the more the away side would fancy their chances.
Fortunately it was the home side who found the breakthrough. Much has been made of Leon Best and his poacher instincts, but most people have also seen the all round play from Best improve over recent weeks. He set up Demba Ba for his first goal on 27 minutes when he fired in a low cross which Ba trapped before turning and firing home past Paul Robinson. It was a smart finish and the relief on the face of Ba was clear for all to see as he dropped to his knees and kissed the St James’ Park pitch.
Ba managed to double his tally just three minutes later. Danny Simpson swung a cross in from the right which Steven Taylor headed back across goal for Demba Ba who was left with the simple task of nodding past Paul Robinson from close range. Two for Newcastle, two for Ba.
From then on the home side should have pushed on. Blackburn were wobbling and could have been there for the taking but stand in left-back Ryan Taylor gifted Steve Kean’s men a way back into the match. Taylor gifted the away side possession and Martin Olsson flew down the wing crossing for David Hoilett who smashed the ball past Tim Krul from the edge of the penalty area.
That goal should have given Blackburn the impetus to attack but it was Newcastle who continued to press. Leon Best headed over from a Ryan Taylor cross while Gabriel Obertan also managed to convert over the bar after a nice piece of play from Yohan Cabaye. That was just about it for the first-half.
Half time: Newcastle 2-1 Blackburn
Any lingering doubts about the direction the match would take were soon dispelled just ten minutes into the second half when Demba Ba completed his hat-trick. Cheik Tiote curled in a delicious ball to the back post for Demba Ba who looped his header back across goal beyond Paul Robinson and into the back of the Gallowgate net.
It should have been more than 3-1 however as Leon Best spurned a succession of good chances, which is unusual for a striker who has proven to be so clinical. That combined with the fact that Martin Olsson saw red for picking up two yellow cards – one for protesting about the third goal and one for a rather cynical challenge on Best who had beaten him with skill – ensured that the game was pretty much over.
Demba Ba was substituted for Hatem Ben Arfa and both received fantastic receptions from the home crowd. The departure of Ba allowed Ben Arfa a brief cameo, and he very nearly set up a goal for Leon Best although unfortunately his effort on goal was blocked.
Full-time: Newcastle 3-1 Blackburn
All in all it was a very good performance from our lads. Are they finally starting to gel together? The introduction of some great passing and movement would seem to suggest so although it’s still early days.
It was nice to see Demba Ba get his goals. I’ve said all along that he has the potential to become prolific for us but after a slow start some fans had started to question him. Again it’s early days for Ba but it would be nice to think that he can replicate the goal every two game form that he has demonstrated throughout his career.
So here we are at the end of September, unbeaten, in all competitions. I can’t quite believe it myself. Whilst I never really subscribed to the doom and gloom that the pundits spouted I also never though it would be October before we had a chance of losing our first game!
Enjoy it whilst you can.
Newcastle: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best, Demba Ba
Subs: Stave Harper, James Perch, Danny Guthrie, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Peter Lovenkrands
Blackburn: Paul Robinson, Michel Salgado, Christopher Samba, Scott Dann, Gael Givet, Junior Hoilett, Steven N’Zonzi, Jason Lowe, Martin Olsson, Mauro Formica, Yakubu
Subs: Mark Bunn, Grant Hanley, Vince Grella, Radosav Petrovic, Simon Vukcevic, Ruben Rochina, Jason Roberts
Referee: Martin Atkinson