Our almost unbelievable turnaround in fortunes continued with a fantastic victory, albeit against a terrible Liverpool side in the late Autumn sun at SJP. Cisse came back into the side along with Steven Taylor from the victory at Man City in the week but to his credit, Pardew resisted the temptation to bring Gouffran and Anita back into the side, rewarding Abeid in particular for his fine shift at the Etihad and the selection paid off in grand style.
The first half was a fairly cagey affair with both sides enjoying decent spells of possession without achieving much but we had slightly more of the attacking threat before Obertan pulled up just before the half hour with what looked like a groin strain. A shame as he had started quite brightly again and his withdrawal gave Pardew a decision to make – stick with the ‘safe’ option of bringing on Gouffran – an irony in itself as he’s shit or go with the more direct and exciting Aarons and credit where credit’s due, it was the youngster that was brought on in the Frenchman’s place, with Sammy switching wings and providing the comedy moment of the half with a Bambi like run, stumble and miskick when attempting a cross.
Most folk were fairly happy with their lot going in at the break but we reappeared without Cisse, who hadn’t looked fit at all in the first half and it was his replacement, Perez that was to ultimately win us the game. Liverpool had their best period for the ten minutes after the break and Gerrard put a couple of searching crosses over but we were equal to them, including Krul who pulled off an eye catching save from a header that was ultimately ruled offside and as the half wore on, our confidence started to grow with the sense we might get something. In light of this, Cabella was brought on for the fading Sammy and we finally got the breakthrough with just over a quarter of an hour to go.
Not for the first time, Dummett got beyond the winger on the overlap to bust a lung to get forward and his clever, switch pass to Sissoko saw the Frenchman fluff a shot which fell perfectly for Perez to lash home in front of a jubilant Gallowgate. Dummett shaded man of the match for me, arguably for the second time in a week. Defensively, he was fantastic, completely snuffing Sterling out of the game and he posed more of a forward threat than I can ever remember, also coming close from a long range shot just before the goal – good for him. Perez has the canny knack of being in the right place at the right time and although he’s still raw, I really like him.
He nearly created a second goal for us shortly after his winner, challenging Skrtel for the ball and breaking clear with Cabella for support. The two of them played a one-two, leaving Cabella bearing down on goal, but his shot was turned slightly fortuitously wide via Mingolet’s leg – the keeper had no idea where the ball was headed and the second wouldn’t really have flattered us. There was no real late push from them and in the end we held on pretty comfortably – we were more likely than them to score in the latter stages of the game despite their introductions of Borini and Lambert.
So, what a fortnight for the club and it’s difficult to pinpoint how things have changed so dramatically. For me, it’s a combination of things. Firstly, I don’t think you can downplay the positive effect of Williamson not being in the side and it is absolutely no coincidence that our upturn has come at the same time as his absence. Coloccini looks a better player with Taylor alongside him, the defence look much more organised and the overall effect on the side is noticeable. The victory in midweek was also massive in the sense that it finally gave the shove that has been needed for so long to finally remove dross like Anita and Gouffran from the side. Mehdi Abeid has had a fantastic week and Sammy should be country miles ahead of Gouffran on the team sheet now. Obertan has played a part too and hopefully his injury isn’t a serious one but the final word of congratulation to the players themselves for a great afternoon and for turning us from relegation certainties to mid-table safety in the space of a fortnight.
Long may this continue. Not good for the liver, though but.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Krul 7, Janmaat 8, S Taylor 8, Coloccini 8, DUMMETT 9, Obertan 6 (Aarons 7), Sissoko 8, Colback 8, Abeid 9, Sammy 6 (Cabella 7), Cisse 6 (Perez 8)
Ref – Marriner – 3 – For a game with barely any needle, he managed to completely over-officate and get a number of decision plain wrong
Our Fans – 8 – Great when SJP is like that
Their Fans – 6 – Much quieter than usual, had now to cheer mind.
Follow Gareth at @truefaith1892