We’ve done it! Following last night’s 4-1 win over Preston, Newcastle United’s promotion back to the Premier League has been confirmed, regaining their top flight status at the first time of asking.
Goals from Ayoze Perez (2), Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie were enough to get us over the line, seeing joy and relief spilt out across the 50,000 crowd at St. James’ Park.
You could see how much it meant to everyone connected to NUFC when the full time whistle sounded. Promotion has been a collective effort and this was evident as the entire squad, the staff and Rafa Benitez came together to celebrate on the pitch.
Once Rafa congratulated all of his players, he headed over to personally thank the Geordie faithful in a special moment at the Gallowgate end.
Not only was he met with a rapturous applause and chants of his name, I noticed him congratulate the groundsmen taking down the goals and the stewards, shaking each and every one of their hands in a display of appreciation for everyones efforts.
Benitez unites our club and this act just highlights further the sheer class of the man.
Rob Elliot – 7 – A surprise inclusion for the 30 year-old stopper who made his return to the side after spell on the sidelines. He was generally a spectator but showed his class in the first half, making a crucial one on one save to deny Preston.
Vurnon Anita – 5 – Looked out of sorts. Was caught in no mans land too many times defensively and was slow to respond to Preston counter attacks. He was sloppy in possession and offered little going forwards. Poles apart from his alert display against Leeds.
Jamaal Lascelles – 7 – Appeared more comfortable alongside Clark and put in a far more assured display. Dealt with the physical threat of Hugill well, winning most of his aerial duels. An improved performance from the NUFC skipper.
Ciaran Clark – 7 – Carried the ball out of defence well and intercepted some of Preston’s attacks. A steady display on his return.
Paul Dummett – 6 – Stuck to his task and kept it simple. Unspectacular but solid.
Jonjo Shelvey – 6.5 – Tried to make things happen in frustrating periods of the first half. Switched up the play with some punchy passes but a quiet game by his standards.
Isaac Hayden – 6 – Not quite the all action performance we’ve been used to seeing from him but a brilliant tackle to spark the build up to Atsu’s crucial goal before half-time.
Matt Ritchie – 7.5 – Inventive and energetic as ever. Threw several dangerous crosses into the box and made no mistake from the spot to extend our lead.
Ayoze Perez – 7 – Was in the right place at the right time to score 2 vital goals. Struggled to get into the game prior to the sending off but grew in confidence as the game went on.
Christian Atsu – 6 – Took confidence from his goal, which was well taken, but generally looked short of confidence or ideas.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – 6 – Didn’t quite happen for the Serbian tonight, who’s efforts to score often came up short. Instrumental in our second goal however, showing great awareness in providing the assist for Atsu.
Player performances, our style of play or our home form may have created cause for concern at times, but last night’s achievement proves this season has been one thing – successful.
Newcastle have became just the 4th club from the last 30 relegated to bounce straight back up. The title may just allude us, but Aston Villa and Norwich’s indifferent seasons act as a telling reminder of just how different things could’ve been following relegation.
Benitez has guided us back to where we belong and given us a platform to build on.
Significant investment will be required next season, with the biggest tests yet to come, but part 1 of the Rafalution is complete as the Mags march on the Premier League!