Newcastle secured all three points against Chris Hughton’s Norwich City outfit yesterday, but it wasn’t a convincing performance at all.
Three points is three points of course, and courtesy of Demba Ba’s fourth goal of the season midway through the first half those three points were registered in our favour, but there needs to be some serious improvement in our performances.
The upshot of it is that we are now one point off where we were at this stage last season having played three of the top seven sides from last term, two of which have been away from home. Granted our performances haven’t exactly been free-flowing, but we’ve also had to do that whilst balancing Europa League commitments and having a fair amount of key players out through injury. Not a justification but food for thought all the same…
After naming a largely second string side in Europe on Thursday night, Alan Pardew brought back the big hitters whilst he served the second game of his two game ban. Yohan Cabaye returned, as did Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa and Vurnon Anita. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were paired together in attack, with the latter of the two able to breath a huge sigh of relief at the full time whistle!
It was the visitors who started the game brightly and created the first chance of the game. Wes Hoolahan met a Javier Garrido cross with his head only to see Steven Taylor deflect the ball behind for a corner.
However despite the bright start Norwich made they were undone by a moment of quality after twenty minutes as Hatem Ben Arfa teased the ball through for Demba Ba to fire past John Ruddy from the edge of the area. A great assist by the Frenchman and an equally cool finish from Ba.
Norwich were almost level minutes later courtesy of a Robert Snodgrass header, but Mike Williamson was perfectly positioned on the line to clear the ball away from danger and ensure United’s narrow lead remained intact.
The home side then showed some urgency in the final few minutes of the first half and applied some pressure to Norwich without really threatening. That was until Mike Williamson was barged in the back by Steve Morison leaving referee Neil Swarbrick little option but to award a penalty to the home side on the stroke of half-time.
After discussion between Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez it was decided that Papiss Cisse was to take the penalty. With the Senegal international still to get off the mark this season it was a decent gesture, but I would suggest sentiment should be put to one side when games are still there to be won. Up stepped Cisse who ballooned the ball high and wide in much the same way he did against Olympiakos in pre-season.
Half-time: Newcastle 1-0 Norwich
The visitors could have equalised once more right at the start of the second half but Steve Harper was alert to the danger and came off his line early to block and Andrew Surman effort after he was played through on goal by Wes Hoolahan.
Norwich continued to press for an equaliser without really threatening the United goal. Davide Santon nodded away again although it looked to me as though the initial header was dropping wide. Better safe than sorry though I guess. Meanwhile at the other end Hatem Ben Arfa stung John Ruddy’s palms with an effort from 25 yards out whilst Papiss Cisse headed over the bar before firing straight at Ruddy after being played in by James Perch. Mike Williamson, a threat at set-pieces all game, also forced a save from Ruddy.
The closest Norwich could come to an equaliser was via a deflected cross into the box which nearly found its way into the path of Simeon Jackson but the Canadian was thwarted by Steve Harper who took a kick for the team.
Ultimately the game petered out and Newcastle did enough to secure the three points, but it was only just enough and we’ll need to be more convincing in future games if we are to try and repeat the success of last season.
Full-time: Newcastle 1-0 Norwich
As a final note, our penalty taking needs sorting. I actually don;t have faith in anyone aside from Shola Ameobi from the penalty spot. It’s all well and good just seeing who is up for it at the time, Arsenal used to do something similar in their invincible days, but that miss by Papiss Cisse could have really cost us in the end.
Oh and just one more thing. Hopefully Troy Stavers had an excellent day yesterday, as did his son who was mascot for the day. I hope you all enjoyed it!
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Steve Harper, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Steven Taylor, Davide Santon, Hatem Ben Arfa, Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba.
Subs: Rob Elliot, James Tavernier, Gael Bigirimana, Cheick Tiote, Sammy Ameobi, Gabriel Obertan, Shola Ameobi.
Norwich City: John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong, Leon Barnett, Javier Garrido, Robert Snodgrass, Bradley Johnson, Jonny Howson, Andrew Surman, Wes Hoolahan, Steve Morison
Subs: Mark Bunn, Michael Turner, Ryan Bennett, Alexander Tettey, Anthony Pilkington, Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson.