Yet another relegation six-pointer and yet another win, with a late strike from Ayoze Perez giving us a deserved victory over Huddersfield at St James’ Park today.
After watching it closely from the Gallowgate this afternoon, here’s my thoughts on each player’s performance and my marks out of 10.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Gayle
Dubravka – N/A – Huddersfield didn’t muster a single shot on target, so that shows you just how much he had to do. Saying that, he continues to give an air of confidence to the NUFC back-line and is still yet to concede a goal at St James’ Park (three cleans sheets in three).
Yedlin – 6.5 – Made some positive bursts forward, giving us good width down the right, however he was probably our poorest player in the first half thanks to some careless bits of decision making and defending. He’s a great athlete, but can suffer from the odd lapse both on and off the ball.
Lascelles – 7 – Aside from the odd long-ball up to Depoitre, he was rarely troubled. My only complaint was a few needles attempts to play football in dangerous areas in the final few moments of the game. He’s a row Z sort of centre-back so this was unlike him, but it nearly cost us. In general though, it was another solid showing, with him developing a strong partnership with Lejeune at the back (three straight clean sheets at SJP proves that).
Dummett – 8 – Made some pivotal challenges, often being the man to cut out the danger on the few occasions Huddersfield got into good positions. Can’t remember his man ever beating him and being able to put in a cross, with him recovering so well when ran at down the line and also filling it well in the centre whenever balls came in from Yedlin’s side. He’s limited going forward, but some of his zipped forward passes into Gayle and Perez were impressive too. Another rock solid display from a man who is fast becoming one of our most dependable performers.
Diame* – 8.5 – His first half display was outstanding. Huddersfield may have been woeful, but he single handedly bossed the midfield in the first-half, making positive passes, being the first into challenges and covering so much ground. His turnaround in form continues to amaze. Another dominant display in midfield.
Shelvey – 7 – Fired narrowly wide in the early stages and spurned a few promising chances from set pieces, however it was another measured display from Shelvey in the main. He kept his head despite some tasty challenges from Huddersfield’s midfield pair of Mooy and Hogg and combined well with Mo Diame to convincingly win yet another midfield battle.
Ritchie – 7 – Tailed off in the second half, but gave impressive Huddersfield left-back Kongolo something to think about for the majority of the first half. Contested for every ball and was busy down our right linking up with the marauding Yedlin. Missed a big chance to put us 1-0 up, but looked more lively once again.
Perez – 8 – He often frustrates and flatters to deceive, but today he was a thorn in their side and never stopped working – finally getting his rewards with the all important winner late on. He had the odd frustrating moment in the second half, but Huddersfield were struggling to pick him up in the first 45. There’ll no doubt be some who felt it was same old Ayoze Perez, but he looked up for it today and did a lot of good work.
Kenedy – 7.5 – He put himself about and gave us a great out ball down the left once again. He’s inventive and has genuine quality in that left foot, but it was promising to see him get stuck in today and put in a shift for the team. Faded a little in the final third of the game, but another influential display on the whole, with him keeping calm and showing another touch of class to provide the assist for Perez’s late winner.
Gayle – 4 – Could’ve quite easily had a hat-trick, but his final finish consistently let him down. His runs and touches to create the chance were often good, but it was a worry to see how many big opportunities he wasted. It hasn’t ended up costing us, but it’s another clear example of that we lack a ruthless finisher up top. Slimani could be that man, but he won’t play at Leicester next week (parent club), so Gayle needs to up his game.
Slimani – 7 – Came on and looked lively. He came short to get a hold of the ball but also looked to stretch the Huddersfield defence with runs in behind, all whilst putting himself about and battling for every ball. Hard to judge, but some promising signs.
Atsu – 7 – was lively down the right in spells, with his floated cross to the far post causing confusion and leading to Perez’s winner.
Hayden came on to help close the game out and won a few important aerial duels as Huddersfield threw the kitchen sink at us late on.