We began with the same starting line up as last Saturday with Cabaye and Remy on the bench and the first half followed a familiar pattern of late of few chances and a lot of possession for the visiting team. Our best chance of the half came from a (shock, horror) corner when Ben Arfa’s delivery was headed goalbound by Colo but his header rebounded back off the hapless Cisse. Fulham played some tidy stuff but with Berbatov mystifyingly parked in midfield they lacked any cutting edge. Christ almighty, Bent looked immobile upfront as well – it was almost a hat-stand competition between him and Shola – both absolutely rotten.
The second half ambled along for the first twenty minutes but Fulham noticeably sat back and Pardew made what turned out to be an inspired triple substitution. Off went the ineffective Marveaux, Shola and Anita and on came Cabaye, Remy and Gouffran. The reception for Cabaye was a funny one – I personally witnessed fans booing him on and then applauding him twenty seconds later when he first touched the ball. Far be it from me to argue the intellectual capacity of some of our support.
All three made a tangible difference though and Gouffran should have broken the deadlock when he again managed to fluff his lines from about three yards out, this time failing to connect with his head when any sort of contact would surely have beaten the keeper. Gouffran’s direct running though inspired Santon to push on and with the hero/villain Cabaye adding some forward direction from midfield, we began to dominate the game with their keeper making a couple of smart stops. Mind, Krul was saved into a good save from a free kick stemming from a rash Cabaye challenge but otherwise the last quarter of the game was very much one way traffic.
Cisse came within inches of putting us ahead when he headed back on the bar from a great Ben Arfa centre but another goalless draw looked on the cards before Hatem finally found his range with a stunning finish with just three minutes left on the clock.
The Frenchman cut inside and absolutely rifled a shot past Stockdale and his joy and our relief were all too evident. I think I might have mentioned this roughly a million times but I absolutely love Ben Arfa and he was the only one that could have fashioned a winner like that – yes, he spent half of the game trying too hard to beat ten men but I can’t stress enough how much onus is put on him to effectively drag us out of the shite. Never mind Cabaye, please don’t sell Hatem. Please.
We could have made it even more comfortable when Gouffran shimmied through only to see his toe-poke very well saved by Stockdale and Cabaye came close too. Everyone clocked how good a footballer Remy clearly is aswell, with his touch and vision drawing some happy nods from Mags left, right and centre.
The final whistle was greeted with a lusty cheer and make no mistake about it, this was a big, big win for United. The gratifying thing was that we definitely deserved it too and for the first time this season we actually played well as a team, albeit it against distinctly average opposition. On the face of it, four points in the first three games and a passage through to the next round of the cup amounts to a pretty decent August but as we all know too well, things could look an awful lot worse come the end of the transfer window.
For now though, we need to continue to bank some points in the next four games against Villa, Hull, a stuttering Everton and Cardiff and dare we say it, relax watching the lads. The last half hour today was actually enjoyable and in the current circumstances that is almost unbelievable.
Keep the Faith
PS – I missed my all time (non-NUFC) hero on the pitch at half time in the form of Franco Baresi but what the fuck was my current (non-NUFC) hero, Dimitar Berbatov doing playing in centre midfield? To accomodate Darren Bent?! Thanks for that, Martin Jol.
Newcastle United – Tim Krul 7, Mathieu Debuchy 6, Mapou Mbiwa 7, Fabricio Coloccini 7, Davide Santon 8, Hatem BEN ARFA 8, Vurnon Anita 6 (Yohan Cabaye 6), Moussa Sissoko 5, Sylvain Marveaux 5 (Yoan Gouffran 6), Shola Ameobi 4 (Loic Remy 7), Papiss Cisse 5
Ref – Chris Foy 7 – Had nowt to do really
Our Fans – 6 – Positive
Their Fans – 1 – They’re a dead canny club and that but their travelling support is beyond pathetic.
Have you registered for the true faith SATURDAY SPECIAL? Do it here