We ran out 2-0 winners against West Ham at the London Stadium tonight and look a completely different team to last season, playing on the front foot in a well deserved win over the Hammers.
Here’s my thoughts on a brilliant victory.
The starting line-up certainly divided opinion before the match, with Bruce leaving Almiron out and starting Andy Carroll in a 4-4-2. Jamal Lewis, Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick all made their debuts, with Karl Darlow starting in goal in Dubravka’s absence.
I’ll be totally honest, I wasn’t exactly bursting with confidence after seeing the starting line-up and formation, but we dominated the early exchanges and looked the better side.
Callum Wilson had three half chances – the best a curling effort from range that went just wide of the top corner. Fernandez had a header saved by Fabianksi and Shelvey struck the side netting with a thunderous effort.
Despite being off the pace, it was the home side who came closest to opening the scoring, with Angelo Ogbonna and Pablo Fornals both hitting the crossbar in the opening 45.
The match was certainly there for the taking and there was a real sense of optimism heading into the break – even if we were yet to break the deadlock.
Then, ten minutes into the second half, two of our new boys combined as Jeff Hendrick nodded a deflected cross into Callum Wilson – who then poked the ball past the keeper. A debut goal for our new talisman and we were deserving of the lead. He does love scoring against the Hammers, with him making it 8 goals in 9 games!
The rest of the second half mirrored the first, Newcastle dominant and West Ham remained lethargic. After we scored, the game started to peter out and neither side really looked like scoring until the 87th minute when Jeff Hendrick absolutely rocketed an effort into the top corner from just inside the box. A goal and an assist on debut for the Irishman!
Soon after, the final whistle blew and we had won our first game of the season since 2012. A scrappy affair at times, but a well deserved win for Steve Bruce.
There were so many positives to draw from tonight’s game. Callum Wilson was lively all night and scored on his debut. Jeff Hendrick scored one and set the other up in an industrious display down the right. Jamal Lewis looked solid defensively, constantly teased with overlapping runs and crosses into the area. Ryan Fraser will be made to wait until next week for his debut.
The old guard also stepped up – Andy Carroll won so much in the air and linked up well, proving why Bruce gave him a start. The defence was solid and kept a clean sheet, giving Darlow a much needed boost in Dubravka’s absence. The midfield duo of Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden dictated the game; keeping West Ham’s creative threat to an absolute minimum.
Despite a disruptive and short pre-season, we looked a solid unit and a side boosted from the arrivals of Wilson, Lewis and Fraser in midweek.
Bring on Brighton next Sunday!