February 15, 2011: Birmingham City 0 - Newcastle United 2.
In a midweek fixture, Newcastle took a giant step towards safety as they dominated Birmingham City on their opponent's home ground at St. Andrews.
In their first victory since their consecutive shutouts aginst Wigan and West Ham in early January, Newcastle put on an equally dominating performance on a difficult ground where only two other teams have won this season. Notably, it was a perfect game for Newcastle's men on the left - Jose-Enrique on defense and Jonás Gutiérrez in the midfield.
It was a near perfect game. Jose-Enrique led the back four in their defense. Jonas crossed the ball to Peter Lovenkrands in the second minute for the first goal. And he crossed the ball to the other starting striker, Leon Best, for the second goal early in the second half. Best's goal was a wonderful, textbook header. Birmingham had very little in response. Newcastle took Birmingham and their supporters out of the game, while Steve Harper earned himself a clean sheet with a few excellent saves.
What more could a Geordie fan want, given the circumstances? Newcastle needed to stabilize following two difficult games at the start of February. They wrestled a point in Blackburn, and then soundly defeated Birmingham. The Birmingham match was their 'game in hand' to catch-up with the rest of the league (with 27 matches played), and can close February with a win against Bolton for a grand total of eight points for the month.
The match against Bolton on Saturday, February 26th is a big test of Newcastle's stability and competitiveness. The match will be at St. James' Park. Bolton is currently playing a notch above Newcastle, having recently defeated Everton and Fulham. And just one point separates the two teams in the league table. Newcastle have a great opportunity to take 8th place in the league, with matches against Stoke and Wolverhampton still in the list of upcoming fixtures. Not to get too drunk on Geordie optimism, but a Newcastle win, combined with a Sunderland loss or draw, would result in a temporay jump to 7th place in the table. This is a big weekend, lads.
Now on the awesome Newcastle United blogs, to see what they had to say:
Black & White & Read All Over: "We're now unbeaten at St Andrews in seven visits in all competitions and have closed the gap on 5under1and to just two points [sic]. More importantly, though, we've given ourselves eight points worth of breathing space over 18th-placed Wigan."
View From The Shite Seats: "With United looking solid at the back and effective if not spectacular going forward, and with Europe now closer than the relegation zone, dare United start to think about a spectacular season instead of a steady one?"