NUFC got back to winning ways at St James’ Park today, with two goals from Ayoze Perez and a strike from Jonjo Shelvey sealing a 3-1 win over Luton to send Benitez and the boys into the FA Cup 4th round.
Here’s some thoughts on each player’s performance and our marks out of 10 following today’s win.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Woodman – Manquillo, Lascelles (Hayden 31), Clark, Dummett – Shelvey (Diame 71), Merino (Saivet 80) – Murphy, Perez, Ritchie – Gayle
Woodman – 6 – A mixed performance on his NUFC debut. Claimed a cross well early on, made a smart stop in the second half and looks to be a much better kicker/distributor than Elliot/Darlow, but was almost caught out on a few occasions when being closed down with the ball at his feet. Over committed for their goal, with Hylton rounding him following a slight rush of blood, but he will have been a little over-eager to impress. Some promising signs but could do with a loan move away this month.
Manquillo – 6 – Got a chance in his favoured position at right-back and did ok. Looked more natural going forward (as you’d expect for a right-footer) and was a decent out ball on the overlap.
Lascelles – 7 – Dealt with just about everything during his half an hour on the pitch. Strong in the air, calm on the ground and left our defence looking a little uncertain for the final two thirds of the game after his early withdrawal. Hopefully he’s fit for Swansea – we’re so much stronger at the back with him in the team.
Clark – 7.5 – A confident performance from the NUFC centre-back. Some important challenges and some calm pieces of defending – with a clever piece of skill even putting a Luton attacker on their backside at one point in the first-half. Another steady display from the Irishman following the clean sheet at Stoke earlier this week.
Dummett – 6 – Another 90 minutes in the bank after several months on the sidelines. He got caught a little high up the pitch on the odd occasion in the first half (allowing Luton to get in behind), but generally wasn’t troubled much by their right-winger and read the game well. Rarely offered much of an out ball to Ritchie at the other end, mind. He’s solid defensively but does limit us as an offensive threat down our left-hand side.
Shelvey – 7.5 – Always looked forward and took his goal very well following some flowing football from NUFC. Didn’t try too many hopeful/wasteful long balls (although the odd one was a little aimless to an isolated Gayle) and was always looking to play that cutting pass to get us moving into dangerous areas. Showed his lack of stamina to get back and recover with a cynical trip and yellow card on a Luton counter attack, but did put in a good display today and took his goal well.
Merino – 7.5 – Looked bright in the opening exchanges, always wanting to get on the ball and keep things moving. Got stuck in and tried to break forward with the ball when the opportunity presented itself.
Ritchie – 6 – Never stopped running and tried to make things happen, but things didn’t always come off for him. You can tell he’s not at his best at the moment as it wasn’t quite happening for him at times, but he was busy and left unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, with a late drive hitting the side netting late on.
Perez – 7 – Was alive in the box for both goals, could and should have had a hat-tirck and contributed to the third goal with a decent run and pass forward. Good to see him get on the scoresheet again, but a player who must work on his all round game if he wants to make that number 10 role his own. A few too many weak shots, weak passes and sloppy pieces of play, but a crucial contribution to our win nonetheless. Hopefully he can take confidence from getting on the scoresheet again.
Murphy – 8* – Looks to be growing in confidence each week. He was a threat down the right and caused them problems all game. He cut inside and got a few shots away (one well saved in the first half and a few smashed over), but also showed he can go the other way and get ball in down the line – with him leaving the Luton left-back for dead on one occasion and cutting it back perfectly for Perez (who should’ve scored!). It is a game you’d hope a £10m signing to impress in, but it’s good to see him look a threat and gain in confidence after a slow start to life on Tyneside.
Gayle – 6 – Worked hard and had a hand in the Shelvey’s goal with a smart lay off, but was a little wasteful in the final third. Blazed a few decent chances over the bar, but did put in a decent shift up top. Needs better service and movement in fairness – a few too many long balls hit up to him too which doesn’t help when you’re just 5ft 8′.
Hayden – 6 – Played an hour at centre-back after Lascelles limped off. Got stuck in and looked strong in the air, but overcommitted on a few occasions to allow Luton in behind. He’s not a natural CB (despite playing here the odd time for Arsenal) but didn’t do too badly.
Diame – 7 – Only played 20 minutes but got stuck in and won his battles in the middle of the pitch just as Luton were preparing a late rally. Saw a thumping long range shot go narrowly wide as he broke with the ball late on. He doesn’t seem capable of the marauding runs I often saw him do in his Wigan/West Ham days, but he’s been effective in the way he’s put himself about, used his presence and broke play up in his last few outings.
Saivet – N/A – Hard to give a rating due to him being on the pitch just 10 minutes. Little to report aside from a few tidy touches.