It’s not often we’ve been able to say it this season, but that was thoroughly enjoyable and a brilliant performance from start to finish, with us ripping Bournemouth to shreds with some lovely football and devastating finishing!
Not only our best display of the season so far, but one that takes us beyond the 40-point mark and in with a chance of a top 10 finish.
Gayle, S Longstaff, Almiron and Lazaro grabbed the goals, Saint-Maximin weighed in with a hat-trick of assists – making him on the third player in NUFC history to do – Shelvey pulled the string, Bentaleb and Krafth impressed on rare starts and we were solid at the back, with Lascelles a dominant force throughout.
Bruce made SIX changes for this one. Out went Darlow, Schar, Rose, Hayden, Almiron and Carroll, along with the five-man defence that was tough to watch on Sunday, and in came Dubravka, Krafth, Bentaleb, Shelvey, Joelinton and Gayle, with Saint-Maximin starting to many’s surprise (he was said to be “extremely tired” on Monday) and Sean Longstaff playing in a slightly more advanced role.
The game started positively from our perspective, with us passing the ball about quite nicely and putting pressure on a struggling Bournemouth side from the off, and it took just 4 minutes for us to find a surprise early breakthrough.
Dwight Gayle was given the chance to redeem himself after skying a huge chance against Man City on Sunday, and he repaid Bruce’s faith almost immediately, slotting into the bottom corner emphatically when a loose ball fell his way just 4 minutes in! A calm finish, his second goal since the restart and a much needed boost for him in front of goal!
Big credit must also go to Sean Longstaff, whose pressing forced Lerma into an error and created the opening, and Saint-Maximin, who played a simple but effective ball into Gayle to put him in behind.
Twenty minutes on and it had been all NUFC. We weren’t battering the Bournemouth door down, but we were much the better side, playing some lovely front foot football and looking completely in control.
Sunday’s performance was turgid and far too defensive, but this was a joy to watch in comparison. On the subject of beautiful football, Allan Saint-Maximin then turned on the style and set up our second, dancing past Smith and cutting the ball back for Sean Longstaff, who finished superbly.
Sadly, Sean was forced off moments later after pulling up with a muscle injury, but he’d been outstanding in the first half, playing a key part in both goals and pressing brilliantly in a more advanced role just behind Gayle.
0-2 at half-time and arguably the most convincing half of Premier League football we’d seen under Steve Bruce.
Bournemouth looked shot to pieces and stunk of a side sliding into the second tier, but we’d been brilliant. Saint-Maximin was causing havoc and Joelinton looked much more confident out wide, with Gayle lively, Shelvey on song and Bentaleb putting in a slick performance in the first 45 ahead of our back four.
The second half began and we were all hoping for more of the same.
An early scare arrived just seconds into the restart, with King heading past a sprawling Dubravka, but he was rightly adjudged to be offside. Still, that was a warning sign that this was make or break for Bournemouth, who seemed all but down if they didn’t get a result here based on their ridiculously tough run in.
They’d clearly had a thorough telling off from Howe at half-time and looked more likely (not that they could get any worse), but it was 0-3 before they’d even got a chance to pull one back.
Almiron netted this time, via a brilliant burst and ice cool finish with his weak right foot, and it was that man Saint-Maximin who set it up with a clever pass in field to set him away. His third assist of the night and Almiron’s 7th of the season!
Brook then hit the bar for Bournemouth on the hour mark, with that followed by a double substitution from Bruce, which saw the stunning Saint-Maximin and dangerous Gayle come off for Carroll and Lazaro.
More changed arrived 72 minutes, with Yedlin replacing Manquillo at left-back and Hayden replacing a hobbling Joelinton, but a game that threatened to fizzle out came back to life just moments later. A perfectly weighted pass from Shelvey put Lazaro in behind, and the Austrian’s brilliant run infield was matched with an even better finish into the top corner.
0-4 Newcastle and this was unknown territory after a season full of hard fought points, yet it was almost FIVE seconds later when Lazaro smashed the crossbar with a vicious shot from range!
Bournemouth grabbed a late goal in the 94th minute through ex-Mag Dan Gosling to ruin our clean sheet, but it didn’t take the shine off what was a first class display.
We were a joy to watch from start to finish and fully deserved the convincing win.
Next up, a home game against a struggling West Ham side on Sunday!