A day to forget for Jamaal Lascelles but an entertaining 2-2 draw at St James’ Park, with us coming from behind twice via well worked goals from Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey.
Our unbeaten run in the Premier League now stretches to 6 games and it’s another point, however there’ll be a feeling in the dressing room that this was a missed opportunity to secure a potential top 10 finish.
That being said, we scored two lovely goals, continued to carry more of a threat and be easier on the eye in this new formation, only for a few lapses of concentration at the back to cost us.
Bruce made just a couple of changes for this one, with Almiron replacing the injured Sean Longstaff in the number 10 role and Hayden coming back into the side in place of Bentaleb – who was a little unfortunate to not keep his place after impressing in a holding role at Bournemouth.
Many, including myself, were frustrated to see Lazaro left on the bench AGAIN after impressing from the bench in midweek, however Bruce went with Joelinton and ASM out wide, with Almiron playing just behind Gayle.
We flew out of the traps on Wednesday and raced into a 1-0 lead, however things went in the complete opposite direction from off in this one, with West Ham taking the lead within 4 minutes.
Manquillo couldn’t keep with Bowen after a smart ball put the former Steve Bruce target in behind, but it was Lascelles who made a complete hash of the resultant cross, with his scuffed clearance allowing Antonio to smash past Dubravka from six-yards out.
A rare mistake from the skipper and a nightmare start against a West Ham side who already had their tails up slightly from that huge 3-2 win over Chelsea in midweek, however we had plenty time to put it right.
Earlier in the season we’d wonder how on earth we’d get ourselves back into the game and score twice at this point, but we immediately came back into the game, passing the ball around nicely and responding just over 10 minutes later with a lovely team goal:
Some nice link up play between Joelinton and Gayle got the ball out wide to Saint-Maximin, whose ball out wide to Emil Krafth was fizzed across the box brilliantly and poked home by Miguel Almiron.
A great ball from the Swede and a good bit of movement from Almiron too, who’s now the club’s top scorer on 8 goals after bagging twice in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since his £20m move from the MLS!
So, 1-1 and we were well and truly back in it.
We didn’t always look convincing at the back, with Antonio’s pace and power causing problems and Bowen causing all sorts of bother – he would’ve scored if it wasn’t for a point blank save from Dubravka on the half hour mark – however we generally seemed like the better side against a West Ham defence who looked there for the taking when we got at them.
Half-time and it was all square, although it was a shame to see Hayden limp off with a hamstring injury just before the break.
The second 45 started slowly, with it going from a high paced game with plenty of action to a war of attrition up as we reached the 60-minute mark.
One positive was how good Bentaleb looked, with his clever footwork and slick passing catching the eye.
With 25 minutes remaining, it felt like a game that was there to be won for either side and it was West Ham who struck, with a Rice header that crashed off the crossbar being smashed home by Soucek on the rebound.
It felt like changes needed to be made to get us going again, with Carroll, Lazaro and Ritchie all on the bench, however we responded within 90 seconds!
Joelinton was involved in the build up once again, proving how much more effective he can be in a deeper role, but it was a brilliant one-two between Shelvey and Gayle that lead to the goal.
Another goal for Jonjo and David Moyes was fuming. West Ham defenders seemed convinced Gayle was offside (and I had my doubts!), howeber replays showed that a lazy Fornals was keeping him well onside by the corner flag.
2-2 and another brilliant response to going a goal down from Newcastle, which was then followed by a double switch, seeing Ritchie and Lazaro come on for Gayle – who did a great job up top – and Saint-Maximin.
At this point we were all hoping for a late push for all three points, especially when Andy Carroll came on against his the club that released him last year, however it was West Ham who would go close late on.
Dubravka made a few solid saves, doing well to stop a powerful Yarmalenko shot, but it ended all square, with us noticeably running out of steam from the moment Saint-Maximin was withdrawn.
An opportunity missed to move into the top 10 game we could’ve won if it wasn’t for a few poor defensive errors, yet a point that didn’t feel like the worst one in the world given we came from behind twice.
Next up, a trip to Man City next Wednesday!