Newcastle ran riot at St James’ Park last night as they thumped a poor West Ham side 5-0 to ease a bit of pressure and put some distance between themselves and the relegation places.
In a surprise twist it was Leon Best who stole the show with a well taken hat-trick on his full Premier League debut.
That’s not to say that other players didn’t play their part in last nights rout, and honourable mentions should go to Jose Enrique and Fabricio Coloccini who both played well on the night, aswell as Steve Harper who made some fantastic saves in the Newcastle goal. The key man for me though was Joey Barton who pulled all the strings throughout the game and was the architect of most of our attacking play.
The big team news before the match was the news that Shola Amoebi would be missing from the starting line-up after picking up an injury and that Leon Best would be replacing up front and not Nile Ranger as would probably have been widely expected.
The vistors had the first shot of the game through Scott Parker who tested Steve Harper from range. Jose Enrique had the first attempt for the hosts on 17 minutes when his cross-come-shot was palmed away over the bar by West Ham ‘keeper Robert Green.
It wasn’t long after that when Newcastle broke the deadlock. Peter Lovenkrands chipped the ball over the last West Ham defender to Leon Best who was clean through on goal and slotted home cooly past Robert Green.
It got better for Best and Newcastle on 39 minutes when Lovenkrands’ shot was parried by Green only for the ball to fall to Best who finished superbly through a crowded goal-line. It’s worth pointing out now that Joey Barton had a key role in setting up both goals.
Things got worse for West Ham on the stroke of half-time when Newcastle made it three. Jonas Gutierrez’s low cross into the box was subjected to a clearance from James Tomkins. Unfortunately for Tomkins, he spooned his clearance straight to Kevin Nolan who stroked the ball home from 18 yards.
The Hammers were rocking, and they were there for the taking. Newcastle played with a desire to win, which when coupled with West Ham’s poor showing could only ever result in one outcome. Avram Grant brought on Victor Obinna and Valon Behrami at half time in an attempt to try and get back in to the game whilst Newcastle withdrew Steven Taylor for Mike Williamson after he picked up a slight hamstring strain.
The West Ham substitutions worked for a while and they looked much improved. That was until the 60th minute when Leon Best grabbed his hat-trick after being put through thanks to a deft flick from Kevin Nolan. Best has been asking for a chance, and he got one, and took it with both hands. He has had his critics, but last night he went some way to silencing them.
Just three minutes later, Peter Lovenkrands made it 5-0 after he poked a probing Joey Barton ball from the right into the back of the net at the far post. It should have been 6-0 when Nile Ranger, on for Leon Best who recieved a standing ovation for his efforts, found himself unmarked six yards out from goal with the ball at his feet. The promising youngster somehow transpired to pass the ball well wide of the gaping West Ham goal.
Carlton Cole had a couple of decent chances to claw a consolation goal back for the away side, but Steve Harper was on hand to make sure that Newcastle kept their second clean sheet in consecutive games.
The win leaves Newcastle sitting in eigth place in the table having amassed 28 points so far. They had been in danger of getting dragged into the danger zone after defeats against Manchester City and Tottenham, but back-to-back victories against Wigan and now West Ham have ensured that there is daylight between them and the relegation strugglers, for the moment anyway.
The worrying part of the match last night was the amount of injuries that we picked up. Steven Taylor felt his hamstring so was withdrawn as a precaution whilst Leon Best was withdrawn to protect his ankle. Perhaps the most concerning injury though is to Cheik Tiote who had to leave the field and leave Newcastle with ten men for the final part of the game due to a hamstring strain.
With that in mind it is probably a good job that we head to Stevenage on Saturday for an FA Cup tie that will hopefully allow us to rest some of the more senior players and allow them to recuperate in time for the derby match at Sunderland in ten days time.
Newcastle: Steve Harper, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote, Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Peter Lovenkrands, Leon Best.
Subs: Tim Krul, Shane Ferguson, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Danny Guthrie, Wayne Routledge, Nile Ranger.
West Ham: Rob Green, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Tal Ben-Haim, Danny Gabbidon, Freddy Sears, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Radoslav Kovac, Frederic Piquionne, Carlton Cole.
Subs: Ruud Boffin, Winston Reid, Valon Behrami, Jonathon Spector, Zavon Hines, Pablo Barrera, Victor Obinna.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Attendance: 42,387 (767 West Ham United fans).