United finally got their first win under Rafa, giving him a fine birthday present and giving us something to cling on to as time runs out towards the end of the season. We already knew that the Mackems had gone to Norwich and won earlier in the afternoon, a result which favoured us whilst increasing the Doomsday scenario of them putting us down and a few eyebrows were raised with the team selection when it came in before the match, with most strikingly Shelvey dropped to the bench and returns for Dummett, Colback and Cisse.
The early stages of the match were nervy yet played at virtually half pace. It had the feel of an ‘end of season’ game which is fine when your season is done and dusted, as it was for the visitors, less so when you desperately need a win, as was the case with us. From virtually the first whistle, it was abundantly clear that Swansea had presented me with another chance to get in a cliché as they were firmly already on the beach but we struggled to put together any sort of coherent football. Fabianski had relatively easy saves to make from Anita who almost caught him out with a cross and Townsend who tried his luck from the edge of the box but with the crowd quiet, the game just drifted along.
We were marginally the better side so it wasn’t against the run of play when we took the lead completely out of the blue from a corner, no less. Whether it was the surprise of actually scoring from a set piece or whether folk had nodded off in the glorious sunshine that was beaming down on a day which started with snow across the region is difficult to say, but there was almost a delayed reaction to Jamaal Lascelles overcoming a clear foul from Sigurdsson to squeeze a header past Fabianski.
Swansea partially awakened from their slumber in the second half, aided mainly by substitutions which saw Barrow and Gomis introduced and the disgraceful Leroy Fer hauled off – he’s tossed it off at two relegated clubs previously and he smacks of being a complete wrong ‘un. We’ll sign him next. Gomis in particular worried our back line and the Swans had three decent opportunities to equalise with a shot dragged just wide by Montero and an easier chance missed by Gomis himself.
Shelvey came on for us for Tiote, who I thought had done well and as the minutes ticked by, we also introduced Perez (for the abysmal Wijnaldum) and Mitrovic (for Cisse who had grafted hard all day to little avail) and there was a wave of relief when we finally wrapped things up with just eight minutes to go from another corner – surreal! This time, it was Townsend’s delivery that was nodded back across goal before bouncing to Sissoko to tuck it away for his first goal of the season. In April. The crowd treated Rafa to a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ and there was verging on a carnival atmosphere in the ground and we put the icing (see what I did there) on the cake when we went wild and scored a third in the final minute of the game.
When the ball was played up to Mitro, only the wildest optimist would have expected him to do the defence for pace, so instead he bulldozed his way through before playing in Townsend who duly despatched his shot into the bottom corner. He deserved it for his endeavours too and what an absolutely crucial win it was. When was the last time all four North East league clubs won on the same weekend too, fact fans?
On balance, we must still be outsiders to stay up. If we play as we did today and Man City turn up on Tuesday then we’ll be beaten comfortably but we can live in hope at least that the confidence installed from this victory and their distraction of Real Madrid might give us a chance against them. If we can win that one then I’ll believe we can stay up but realistically, I would say we need a minimum of two points from the next two games and with the other one being away to Liverpool, then we have to pull a shock from somewhere. For now though, we can bask in the glory of victory for the first time in a long while and the late submission of this match report will tell a story of an overly exuberant celebration in our fine city’s hostelries yesterday evening!
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Darlow 6, Anita 6, Mbemba 6, Lascelles 7, Dummett 6, TIOTE 7 (Shelvey 6), Colback 7, Sissoko 7, Wijnaldum 4 (Perez 6), Townsend 7, Cisse 6 (Mitrovic 7)
Ref – Mason – 4 – A right pain in the arse, frankly
Our Fans – 6 – Came to life in the second half
Their Fans – 2 – And I really like them as well
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
The true faith match-day Newsletter The Special, is still available for you should you have missed it on Saturday morning. Just click here to get at it.
As well as that, there was the true faith RADIO SHOW and PODCAST which was a preview of the Swansea game. To get at the PODCAST just click here
Of course we have the new issue of true faith out now for you. You can get at Issue 125 of true faith by just clicking on the image below. The fanzine is brilliant on any device, it is 120 pages of the best fanzine writing anywhere in the UK.