Before kick off, 90% of us saw this as the hardest game of the season so far. Including me.
How wrong we were to think a point would be a struggle and a worthy result. A solid unit Stoke may be, but our lads bullied them off the pitch last night in their own back yard resulting in Newcastle extending their unbeaten league start to the season.
The game kicked off as you would expect, Stoke pumping a high ball into our box only to see the Toon back in numbers and Jonas ‘Guti’ Gutierrez (be prepared to hear this name a lot in this read up) heading away. That set off Frenchman Gabriel Obertan down the right, who won us a corner by cutting inside. Yohan Cabaye then sent in a corner that was headed behind for a retake, which resulted in a clearance and a Ryan ‘Raylor’ Taylor effort from distance that went wide.
Stoke came back at us with a long Rory Delap throw finding a City player in our box. The ball was controlled badly and Guti was on hand to clear. The Toon boys then demonstrated some neat passes from left to right, showing how composed they are on the ball these days.
A little bit into the game and it was obvious Stoke were targeting our left side, with Pennant being released multiple times by his teammates. City had identified Raylor as the weak link in our armoury. He did ok in the early exchanges though and after a bit of pressure from our opponents the forgotten man (until his screamer against Blackburn) Danny Guthrie had the vision to quickly release Obertan who was almost through on goal only for the ‘keeper to rush out and clear.
Stoke began to build up the pressure, but our defence – supplemented by a hardworking midfield – dealt with everything they threw at us. Stoke sprayed the ball from wing to wing trying to find an opening but our boys forced them back into their own half, where Leon Best pressurised their player into playing a long ball upfield and enabled us to regain possession. Good work as he continued to drop deep and look for the ball.
A lovely goal kick from Tim Krul found a flick on from the marginally offside Leon Best, which found Obertan out on the right flank. He cut inside the box and deftly crossed a lovely weighted ball for Ba who read the play well and got himself into position to head home. 0-1, 12 minutes played. What was that about Obertan’s end product people? A goal providing cross described by the commentator as ‘delicious.’
Stoke continued to target our left and Pennant won a corner, which was met by Walters who could only steer a header wide. A bit of confusion after that between Tim Krul and Raylor resulted in another opportunity for a Delap long throw special, however our defenders were back in numbers and we calmly played the ball out of the box, releasing Ba who earnt the Toon a throw in Stoke’s own 3rd of the pitch. Not quite what City hand in mind!
Their fans were not linking this industrious, pacey, robust, talented finisher they call Demba Ba. They had deemed him a write off due a knee injury West Ham and Newcastle fans are yet to bear witness to and he was making their boys look like amateurs. The choruses of ‘YOU’RE A W****R, YOU’RE A W****R DEMBA BA’ rang around the stadium. His response was to catch their defender out in possession and bear down on goal, only to find the ‘keeper again rushing out to clear.
Again Pennant was being continually released down our left, with Raylor marshalling well. Guti was also all over the former Liverpool star, he cleared a long throw then dispossessed Pennant before Raylor made a solid tackle on Wilkinson.
Citydecided to try the left for a change. However, Danny Simpson matched Etherington for pace by tracking match, sticking to him like glue and clearing calmly away. Pennant was again off down their right, but the ball was cleared resulting in Yohan Cabaye putting Ba through who was foiled by a rushing goalkeeper. Shortly afterwards Guti was back tackling down our left resulting in a corner that was caught safely by Krul. This is followed up by a bit of great defending by Raylor. He is pressurised by a determined Stoke, but loses two players before calmly passing to feet.
Stoke come forward and we conceded another corner following more good work by Raylor and Cabaye but Krul spilled an awkward catch. Best is back and clears confidently away. A fast ball finds Obertan who breaks away and wins a throw. However Stoke came back at us only to find a resolute mask adorned Steven ‘Saylor’ Taylor tidying up anything our midfielders had missed. Ba is again boo’d, total jealousy from the Stoke fans who’s £10 million striker Peter Crouch was being completely overshadowed by our free transer ‘injury write-off.’ Finally Crouch produced something and beat both Cabaye and Guthrie, but Captain Coloccini calmly cleaned up. Shortly afterwards Best was again in our own box heading away a Delap throw. The ball fell to Etherington’s feet who shot at goal, only to see his effort saved with ease.
Newcastle were just dominating play. Stoke were trying everything they knew, but our boys had a plan. It was all about team work. Defending in numbers, taking set pieces quickly and every player pressurising the opposition when not in possession. Nothing was coming together for Stoke City.
Yohan Cabaye then conceded a free kick on the edge of our box, however it is easily dealt with and resulted in an attack of or own. Raylor tries a long throw of his own after a bit of Delapesque ball drying with the towel. The ball is cleared only to find Coloccini at the half way line. He chips the ball over the top to Best who chests down and shoots off target (I mean passes with intent?!) into the direction Ba, who is again in the right place to find a tap in waiting for him. 0-2, 39 minutes played.
More good defensive team work between Raylor and Guti ensures another Stoke attack in a corner instead of a free cross. This is dealt with by Krul’s strong fists. Raylor is then at the other end of the pitch taking a long throw in, which is easily dealt with and the ball cleared to Stoke players in midfield. However Demba Ba shows good determination to run back, outmuscle his opposition and win back possession for the Toon.
At this point the camera pans to our next opposition’s manager David Moyes of Everton, who looks sick as a parrot thinking about the prospect of breaking our boys down. Raylor goes in for a 50/50 challenge in our box and is knocked for six, needing over two minutes to get back to his feet and recover. Just before half time Newcastle turn up the heat a little with Guti intercepting again. The ball is played out wide to Best, who runs infield. The Stoke defenders are drawn out of position and the Toon find themselves with two players free on the right, but instead of playing them in Best greedily takes a long shot which is wasted. Bad decision.
Half time Stoke City 0 Newcastle United 2
The second half begins with neither side showing much urgency, but Stoke break with Etherington down their left who is tracked and subdued by Simpson plus two others. Guti then beat three players down their right before promptly losing the ball. However he runs all the way back with Pennant and pressurises him, allowing one of our other boys to get the tackle in. Guti is then involved in more chasing back, this time blocking a cross.
A needless Steven Taylor foul on the edge of our box results in an Etherington free kick, but Saylor made up for it by heading away. Delap then played a lovely ball over the top to release Kenwyne Jones, but our defence was wise to it and stepped up in unison to render Jones offside.
Stoke started to build up a head of steam and Pennant attacked our left only to find Raylor block him three times inside ten seconds. A low testing Delap throw ran through our defence only to find Captain Colo clearing. Etherington then tried the other flank only to find Simpson closing him down and conceding the corner. Note: Simmo is not standing off anymore, he is doing a good job. The first corner is cleared over, the second is met by Upson who heads wide.
A long throw is then taken by Delap, which is cleared by Raylor who is taken out by a high knee. There is then great forward play by Stoke but again Guti busts a gut to get back and clear. Stoke build up the pressure and a nice ball from the left just misses Crouch on the edge of the 12 yard box. In the 5 minutes up to the 67th minute, Stoke have 70% possession.
City continue to build play and try going through the middle with a bit on pace and passing to feet, but the Toon players deal with that effectively too. Despite the Stoke pressure, they create nothing of note and the second half turns into a bit of a stalemate, which suits us!
A Stoke long ball then almost finds a way through, only for Coloccini to slide and clear for a Delap special. Krul again punches away confidently. City get a ball into the box via Whelan causing a scramble in which Ba shoulder barges Crouch in the back conceding a penalty. Walters steps up and smashes it home slightly to the left of the middle as Krul dives to his own left side. 1-2, 75 minutes played.
Newcastle then momentarily lose shape and I begin to worry. We start pumping long balls up field reminiscent of last season and we lose the ball repeatedly, resulting in Wilkinson sending a cross in from the left which carries a lot of bend and almost catches Krul out. Luckily he reads it well and recovers. James Perch then comes on for the hard working and tired Yohan Cabeye and we all despair Come on, be honest. You did, didn’t you?! Within seconds Perch goes in with studs up, feet slightly off the ground. He gets some of the ball and some of the player resulting in a yellow card. I know some felt this was a bit harsh, but it could easily have been a red…
Raylor takes another long throw of his own from the left side of Stoke’s final 3rd. It is aimed at Best, who would have had a header at goal if he were not pushed with two hands in the back by Robert Huth. Penalty. Ba steps up and fires it home to the ‘keeper’s right as he dives the other way. 1-3, 80 minutes played.
Following this Stoke are undone. Ba does more good work to release Obertan on goal who fires wide. Later Kenwyne Jones attacks our left wing but Perch gets back and tackles well. A Delap throw is then caught by an assured Tim Krul, who is taken out by a frustrated Robert Huth. A little tussle begins for a minute or so, which is dealt with well by the referee Mike Dean. Guti is still closing everything down and didn’t stopped running all day. Must be the fittest footballer to have ever graced the earth! In the 95th minute Simpson goes down in the Newcastle box pretending to be injured and ensured the final minute or so passes without any threat towards the away side. Game over.
So there you have it. Always going to be tough going to Stoke, but our boys kept them at bay comfortably and came away with a 3-1 win. Last season we lost 4-0, so it shows how far we have come. We are now sat in 3rd place outright above Chelsea on points and still unbeaten in the league.
Howay the Toon!
Stoke: Asmir Begovic; Andy Wilkinson, Ryan Shawcross, Jonathan Woodgate, Marc Wilson; Jermaine Pennant, Rory Delap, Glenn Whelan, Matt Etherington; Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters.
Subs: Thomas Sorensen, Robert Huth, Kenwyne Jones, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Upson, Cameron Jerome, Wilson Palacios.
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor; Gabriel Obertan, Danny Guthrie, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best, Demba Ba.
Subs: Rob Elliot, Davide Santon, James Perch, Sylvain Marveaux, Dan Gosling, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sammy Ameobi.
Referee: Mike Dean