Aghhh. Feels good doesn’t it. Those last few minutes were as nervous as I’ve felt this season, but a string of fine saves from Karl Darlow and a big effort from first minute to last has handed us a well deserved win today – and the perfect start to 2018.
The win propels us up to 13th and sees us end the ‘festive period’ with 7 points from a possible 12 – a very good return when you think one of those was against City. Certainly lifts the negative mood that was lingering around St James’ Park just 48 hours ago following our concerning stalemate with Brighton!
Now to the game. There were questions over Rafa’s decision to go without a natural striker, but playing Perez in a false 9 role with Atsu, Ritchie and Murphy in and around him worked well. A woeful Stoke defence struggled to pick them up and we could and should have been two up at the break.
It wasn’t to be, but the signs were there and thankfully we got what we deserved in the second half. Murphy had a real go in the second and got his rewards, putting in a perfectly weighted cross for Perez to poke home.
The last 10 minutes were horrible to watch as a fan, with us all knowing the importance of wins in this league (a point in the circumstances would’ve been a crushing blow) and Stoke whipping balls into the 6ft 9′ Peter Crouch, but a combination of putting bodies on the line and a couple of superb Karl Darlow saves saw us get over the line.
— David Moat (@DavidMoat) January 1, 2018
A huge win and a brilliant performance. As we’ve come to expect this season, the quality wasn’t always there (a better side may have been out of sight at half time), but we did not lack energy, heart and ideas.
The likes of Darlow, Diame, Perez, Clark, Shelvey and Murphy have been criticised in recent weeks but they were all brilliant today – as was captain fantastic Jamaal Lascelles who continues to offer a monstrous presence at the back for us.
The perfect start to a huge year ahead for our beloved club and a win that sets us up well for a home double-header with Luton in the Cup and Swansea in the league in two weeks.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo – Shelvey, Diame – Atsu, Ritchie, Murphy – Perez (SUBS – Woodman, Dummett, Haidara, Hayden, Merino, Gayle, Joselu).