Newcastle made it a perfect start to the new year with a well deserved win at Stoke this afternoon thanks to a second half strike from Ayoze Perez.
Here’s some thoughts on each player’s performance and my marks out of 10 for each.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo – Shelvey, Diame – Ritchie, Atsu, Murphy – Perez
Darlow – 9 – He was superb today and the difference between one point and 3 in the end. At times he was unconvincing and hesitant to command his box when balls were put into the box (although he did claim his fair share!), but he made three or four superb saves in the second half to preserve our clean sheet. He’s made a few errors in previous starts but hats off the him! Brilliant.
Yedlin – 6.5 – Had mixed success against Choupo-Moting down their left, but generally got the better of him. Risked the ball in bad areas on a few occasions and was sometimes caught out, but we weren’t punished.
Lascelles – 8 – Was a calm but dominant influence at the back and mopped up well from most things Stoke launched into our box. Dealt with Crouch pretty well and was often alive to any danger. He’s massive for us at the back.
Clark – 7.5 – Covered well on several occasions, made some important interceptions and looked more alert than he sometimes has recently. Missed a huge chance at the other in the first half (which could’ve been so costly in the end!), but stood strong alongside Lascelles late on.
Manquillo – 6 – Stuck to his task in the end but didn’t have a great deal to to – especially in the first half as a stroppy Shaqiri didn’t bother to turn up. Didn’t do anything spectacular at either end and clearly is not a natural left-back but he did a job for us today.
Shelvey– 7.5 – Was given a bit too much space at times and hurt Stoke with a few nice sweeping passes out wide. He kept the ball moving for us in midfield, added a calming influence in midfield and kept making Stoke defenders look over their shoulders with the threat of balls in behind. Played a great through ball to Gayle which should have resulted in a penalty. His best game for a number of weeks.
Diame – 8 – Did a great job today. Put himself about, won several 50/50’s, made quite a few tackles to break up their play and was strong in the air. Much better from Mo and a performance that perhaps explains why Rafa likes to play him. He got about the pitch well, was less wasteful on the ball and showed much more than we’ve seen in recent months. Well done Mo!
Ritchie – 6 – There wasn’t a lack of effort from Ritchie today, but he was a little wasteful once again. A few crosses hitting the first man and the odd tame shot when you’d expect him to do better. He works non stop and is always looking to find a way, but it’s not quite happening for him at the moment.
Atsu – 7 – His movement in and around Perez caused Stoke all sorts of problems in the first half, with them failing to ever pick him up. He did fail to convert a few big chances however and faded out of the game in the second half. A threatening first half display from Atsu in a slightly more central role – he just needs to work on his consistency.
Murphy – 8 – Superbly weighted cross for the goal and a constant threat on the counter. He’s still a bit green around the edges, but he gives it a real go and is showing signs of development. Has a turn of pace, likes to run at his man and that assist for the goal should do his confidence the world of good when it comes to final product.
Perez – 8 – Many questioned his selection up top today but he was very good in most of what he did. He was used as a false number 9 almost and wasn’t nearly as wasteful as we’ve so often seen him be recently. He was more resourceful on the ball, ran at them, drew the odd foul in good areas and scored the all important winner in the second half.