Sports

Newcastle Rescue Themselves

Newcastle have rescued themselves from relegation for the second consecutive year. Last year it was an improbable home win against Manchester United. This year it was an even more improbable win against a red hot Manchester City. In both matches, Matt Ritchie scored the winner.

Newcastle are too good to be relegated this season. I didn’t believe that a few months ago, but it is apparent now. Even when they were failing to win points, their defense was holding together. Their back four have helped keep their goals allowed total one of the lowest in the league. And they were unlucky. They’ve lost points due to final conceded goals in injury time. They have drawn matches that they should have easily won. They’s been an odd team, finding more success on the road than at home.

They practically got a new midfield in January. Issac Hayden, who repeatedly asked to be transferred, accepted his situation and decided to focus on his football. He got selected to start more as a result. Back in September, their best passer was arguably Jonjo Shelvey. Now, with Shelvey on the injured list, their most expensive signing ever, Miguel Almirón is in charge of counter-attacking. Together with wonderkid Sean Longstaff, Issac Hayden and Matt Ritchie, the Newcastle midfield is getting balls closer to goal, and is driving wins.

Before Almirón joined the club, Newcastle whupped Cardiff on their home pitch. Another big step towards safety.

Then with Almirón, Newcastle pulled themselves within 6 points of safety with back to back wins over Huddersfield and Burnley on just 2 days rest.

Their dominance over Burnley was notable. The first half brought the goals, and the second half closed the clean sheet.

There are nine matches remaining in Newcastle’s season. They ought win four of them. I think they only need to win two and draw some others. I will see half of one of their future matches in the Toon next month.

Newcastle’s talent and growing English Premier League experience have gotten them through another season in the top league. The question remaining is whether Rafael Benítez will give the club another year to find a new owner. Newcastle never do anything the easy way under Mike Ashley.

Toon Still Unbeaten In League Play

Newcastle have earned an extraordinary 19 points in 9 league games. They still need 40 points to ensure safety in the league. However, given how weak the Premiership seems to be this season, Newcastle should race to that total before the ground thaws in the spring of 2012.

But are they really good enough to qualify for an UEFA tournament next season? So soon? They are going to remain in the top six so long as Tim Krul remains brilliant in net, and the defense and midfield continue to develop as a unit. But their first league defeat has to be on the horizon. If not against Stock, then Everton, or Manchester City. The first league defeat is coming. How the squad deals with it will help define this season and the team's spirit.

Two highlights from Saturday's match against Wigan sum up the game. In the first half, Tim Krul made a tremendous save against Wigan's Vctor Moses, who fired a rising shot that was labeled for a spot under the crossbar. Then, late in the second half, the French midfield finally produced a goal. In the 80th minute, Sylvain Marveaux fed a beutiful pass backward to the outside center-right of the box, where Yohan Cabaye fired a rising shot into the top left corner. It was a perfect shot, perfect finish. Game, set, match, Newcastle. 

Here' wat my favorite NUFC blogs had to say:

Black and White and Read All Over:

Pardew had what he referred to as "<em>a little chat</em>" with the players at the interval - not quite the stirring oratory of half-time in February's meeting with Arsenal, you'd imagine, but certainly enough to urge them into a hungrier and more purposeful second-half performance.

Blog on the Tyne:

Cabaye's character is already shining through at Newcastle and long may it continue.

View From the Shite Seats:

It was an undeserved victory for a United side who had struggled all afternoon to create any chances of note and also to keep out a Wigan team who looked far more impressive than their lowly-position would suggest.

Newcastle To Be Put To The Test

There shouldn't be anything to assist Newcastle on Sunday, aside from plenty of rest and the enthusiastic support of home spectators. Sunday's match will be a true test of Newcastle's potential. They will host the Spurs, a side that has arguably has one of the best four midfields in the English Premier League.

Newcastle's new Franco-centric midfield will be the focus as a goal will almost surely be needed from them to support Newcastle's forwards, Demba Ba and Leon Best. Best and Ba have begun to gel and score goals, but in a game like this, I think a goal from a non forward would go a long way towards victory. Could be a long range shot, or a set play. We'll see if I am correct.

Newcastle will not be facing a full strength Tottenham side, as the Spurs will be without their star striker, Emmanuel Adebayor. However, the Spurs are full of weapons against the Magpies, who are slight underdogs.

Newcastle will have the option of using Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa as substitutes, since both have recently declared fit. Fatigue should not be an issue for the Toon. 

The game will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel in the US and Canada, and might be found at pirate video sites such as AtdheNet.

UPDATE, October 18, 09:48: Emmanuel Adebayor was fit to play for the Spurs after all. Newcastle got a well deserved point after coming from behind twice in Sunday's match.

Newcastle Eyeing An Undefeated October

A Black and White October? That would be the limit of Newcaastle United's unbeaten streak, I think. 

Then again, take a look at how lucky the team has been. They wrestled a point from an unbalanced Arsenal side. They weren't supposed to win at Villa Park in mid September. But they fought hard and got a point against their former ace goalkeeper, Shay Given. And this past weekend, they came out swinging against Wolverhampton at Molineaux, a ground that has given them much trouble in recent years. But a fortunate correct call by the referee prevented a Wolves penalty, and a fortunate, incorrect call by a referee disallowed what would have been Wolverhapton's tying goal at the very end of the second half. 

Newcastle needed luck to get this far without a loss. But they are gelling as a team. Their defense has been better than average most of the time. Their offense has been below average, until the last two games when Demba Ba began to produce goals. And theough it all, their midfield has held everything together, and it is arguably one of the four best midfields in the league this season.

One of the other great midfields belongs to Tottenham. Newcastle get to rest for 13 days before hosting the Spurs. During that time, five players should fully recover from minor injuries and be ready for action: forward Shola Ameobi, midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa and Dan Gossling, and defenders Mike Williamson and Davide Santon, their crucial new left back. If they somehow get a point out of the Tottenham match, then Newcastle should keep going until the end of the month.

When the lads visit Stoke on October 31, I expect them to finally lose. If not there, then surely the next game against Everton.

What's that? They can defeat both of them? They can take this winning streak into the City of Manchester Stadium on November 19th? I like your attitude, Geordie faithful.

On to the news wire. There's so much to share:

A freelancer over at Bleacher Report summarizes how Newcastle are already surpassing expectations this season.

Sunday Sun: Pardew praises "blossoming" sqad

Footbo: "I believe its a very good time to be a Newcastle fan and I think theres a squad here, if we are lucky with injuries that could be the biggest surprise this year in english football."

The National: "It might not have been splashed on headline-grabbing transfer fees but Ashley has put his money where his mouth is."

Black And White And Read All Over: "[Joey Barton] may not have been present to irritate Wolves - something Alan Pardew lamented after the game, claiming he "might have stopped or slowed down the game" - but we still managed to upset them with a combination of clinical finishing, breathtaking goalkeeping, committed defending and, perhaps most crucially, the not inconsiderable assistance of the officials."

Blog On The Tyne: "Let's be honest, Ba went into the clash with Blackburn under a little bit of pressure after failing to find the net in his first few games. Yet Ba walked out of St James' Park clutching the match ball which had been signed by all of his team-mates."

View From The Shite Seats: "We may not be the best team in the league, and we may well fall away over the coming months, especially during the difficult November fixture list, but for once we have something to shout about and a team to feel rightly proud of, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts."