Newcastle United traversed the long journey to London in order to play West Ham on Saturday and embarked on the journey home with three welcome points, having won 2-1 against a lacklustre Hammers side. With a mentality that has reversed, wins usual being gained at St. James Park rather than on their travels, Newcastle must try to build upon this confidence with the next Premiership game witnessing the North East derby. With Sunderland having fabricated a decent start to the season, Newcastle will play host to a tricky opponent. But with a season that exemplifies the unforgiving nature of the Premiership, it appears a match closer encounter to call. All that can be asserted in certainty is the physicality and determination of the respective teams to get one over their neighbour. Here are the five things I believe we learnt from the game at West Ham that may influence next weekend.
Last season Newcastle had everything their own way and rarely found themselves having to reaffirm their ability and right to play after a disappointing loss. With the Premiership this is a different matter entirely; there have already occurred these bitter losses that must be expelled from the memory in order to rectify the situation. Newcastle resurrected this determined mentality and even after going a goal down, continued to press and maintain possession, eventually ending the game as victors. With the two previous defeats at home and a draw against Wigan, self-belief had to be instilled once again and Newcastle exhibited this on Saturday.
The young Geordie is still learning, developing and ploughing away to assert himself in the game. With a turbulent week that saw his car in flames and becoming a resident at Kevin Nolan’s establishment, Carroll had to dispel these off the field distractions and help his side to claim a result. He was at the centre of each goal, leaping to meet Joey Barton’s cross, missing the ball but consequently pressuring the defenders so that the ball fell fortuitously for Nolan to clinically dispatch the equaliser. The second goal was a simple headed finish from a sumptuous cross supplied by Barton yet again; admittedly the task was made simple by West Ham’s defence vacating the vicinity. No doubt Carroll will be central to the attainment of goals or lack thereof for Newcastle.
With Steve Harper sidelined, Newcastle’s young goalkeeper Tim Krul has had to occupy the position between the posts and fended off what little he had to do with competent ease. I’ve admired the player ever since his infamous display away to Palermo in the UEFA Cup when he was only 18, which ensured a 1-0 win after having pulled off some quite extraordinary saves. Against West Ham Krul claimed crosses, commanded his area and looked comfortable, putting to ease the defenders before him and staking a claim to the position even after Harper has recuperated.
With fans urging the revision of the formation from playing a lone front man, to incorporating two strikers, it seems that Chris Hughton has accepted the fallibility of previous results and revised the formation accordingly to include two upfront. This allows for a greater propensity to push forward and take the initiative, rather than invite the opposition upon you and rely on the lone striker to hold the ball sufficiently enough waiting for others to support him after having retrieved possession. On Saturday there saw an increase in possession and probing from Newcastle which exhibited an enhanced balance, this also provided for numbers behind the ball when defending further to the offensive aspect. Although in championing the play of Newcastle, West Ham gave little in terms of danger, casting a dejected team that will struggle considerably if these sorts of performances come to dominate their season.
Hoot for Hughton
The much desired result on Saturday helped to dismiss the speculation surrounding Chris Hughton’s future at the club. With Hughton being insouciant when approached concerning the subject. He is a staid character, justifying himself or rectifying matters with reference to the outcome of matches. With the constant instability that has engulfed the club over previous years and what it has culminated in, the last thing you would want to observe is the disruption of this inherently favourably position Newcastle are presently situated. Houghton obviously requires an assistant, with the loss of Colin Calderwood, to support him throughout the remainder of the season. But to entertain the removal of Hughton is nonsense, especially when the night is young. For when the morning light appears, hopefully, Hughton will have verified the faith given him.