A promising start to Steve Bruce’s reign at Newcastle United, as Yoshinori Muto’s goal helped us come out on top in our 3rd/4th place play-off game against West Ham today.
Bruce wasn’t in the dugout for this one, with him yet to gain a working visa in China, however he’s believed to have picked the team – and they started very brightly and controlled the game throughout.
You could immediately tell the team were much more focused and ‘up for it’ in this one. You’d expect that, with many being keen to impress new ‘head coach’ Steve Bruce – who watched from the stands with Agnew and Clemence – but it was good to see after what was a dreadful display in the 4-0 defeat to Wolves just a few days ago.
Sorensen missed a golden opportunity early on after a world class pass from Jonjo Shelvey set Isaac Hayden away down the right. It was a bad miss from the Dane and one to forget for him, but he didn’t look out of place, with him looking a handful and a willing runner who comes alive in the box.
All that was missing from our first-half dominance was a goal, but that arrived 33 minutes in, with Yoshinori Muto prodding home well after Jamie Sterry whipped in an inch perfect cross from the right.
It was a tidy finish and a goal that he thoroughly deserved after a bright first-half display from the Japanese forward.
He was very impressive and looked a totally different player to the one we saw struggle against Wolves on Wednesday.
His movement was excellent and his touch looked much sharper, with him linking up nicely and stretching the West Ham defence. He played in more of a ‘Perez role’ and had a striker partner in Sorensen, giving him something to work with and leaving him far less isolated.
Shelvey also looked much sharper in that deep-lying central midfield role, playing several cutting passes and pulling the strings all game, while Sterry also played his part, seeing a lot of the ball down the right and whipping in several dangerous crosses.
Hayden seemed to play a little higher up the pitch than we’ve been used to seeing him, with him making some decent runs forward and putting in a good shift.
Colback actually broke things up well at times and did the simple stuff pretty well, but he’s very limited, both offensively and defensively, and tends to give away too many needless free-kicks.
Ritchie was more like his usual self after reverting back to a left wing-back role and Schar gave us that extra bit of quality and composure from the back.
Lascelles and Clark were solid, although the latter was VERY lucky to escape a red card after a wild and reckless challenge that could have quite easily broken Yarmalenko’s leg!
Federico Fernández, Manquillo, Murphy and Ki replaced Clark, Sterry, Sørensen and Hayden in the second half – which proved to be fairly uneventful from a NUFC perspective, but there were still plenty positives to take.
Murphy showed a real burst of pace on more than one occasion, ghosting past Ogbonna with ease on several occasions – although his cut-backs just evaded those in black and white shirts on both occasions. That said, he looked bright and was at the heart of all our attacks in the second half.
Sean Longstaff came on for the final 30 minutes, with him gaining his first minutes of pre-season and first return to football since he suffered that season-ending knee injury against West Ham in March. He got about the pitch well and had a goal disallowed after some great counter-attacking play from Murphy, Muto and Shelvey, although he was offside as he prodded home from six yards.
With just under 15 minutes left, Matty Longstaff, Lazaar and Aarons came on for Shelvey, Muto and Colback – a substitution that saw the two Longstaff brothers playing alongside each other in the senior side for the vert first time.
We had another goal narrowly disallowed late on, with Lazzar slipping in Matty Longstaff with a lovely first time pass on the volley, however a cut-back lashed home by Aarons was all in vein after the Moroccan was adjudged to have been offside.
Aarons then went on a brilliant run on the counter attack moments later, using his pace to skip past a few West Ham defenders – although his final effort was poor, with him scuffing a weak shot wide.
West Ham put on a bit of pressure late on, but we defended well and fully deserved the victory.
New signings are badly needed, but there were several positives to take from this one, with it being a welcome win in a summer that’s been filled with bad news and bad decisions up until this point.