Newcastle United produced their best home performance of the season as they ran out deserved 5-1 winners against fourth placed Cardiff City. For much of the season home fans have seen their side grind out narrow victories but a rare Friday night game saw the Magpies in the mood to entertain.
They produced a display of free-flowing football that should make their rivals sit up and take notice. All six of Chris Hughton’s January signings started the game but there was little sign of a lack of cohesion. If anything they freshened up a side that has looked tired in recent weeks. The midfield was certainly a lot more mobile than usual thanks to Hughton’s change in personnel. Wayne Routledge and Jonas Gutierrez both provided pace and a steady supply of crosses from out wide, while Danny Guthrie looked more affective in his preferred central role alongside Kevin Nolan. Another new signing Leon Best made a decent debut in attack.
Before the game Chris Hughton revealed that none of his strikers had been given the iconic number nine shirt this season as they had yet to earn the right to wear it. Hughton was also concerned that the player given the number nine could struggle to handle the burden associated with being the top striker. But against Cardiff City a couple of his strikers made their cases for being given the shirt for next season. Youngster Andy Carroll is the closest to that iconic number nine Alan Shearer in terms of their similar playing style. Carroll scored two classic striker’s goals and also had a big part in Gabor Gyepes unfortunate own goal. Carroll attracted the interest of several Premier League clubs in the January transfer window more for his performances than his actual goals. He is nowhere near as prolific as for example Shearer as his two goals at the weekend took his tally to just eight for the season. Another potential number nine Peter Lovenkrands was another striker to bag a brace with two cool finishes. Seemingly inspired by the passing of his father he has now scored six goals in his last four games. If he keeps this that form up he could be a cert to wear the number nine shirt next season.
As a result of their 5-1 win Newcastle have reached the landmark of being unbeaten in 15 league matches. This breaks their previous record that has stood since 1950. The last time Newcastle tasted defeat in the league was at Scunthorpe way back in October. Despite this run the gap between first and second place is only three points, although Newcastle do have a game in hand on their rivals. West Brom and Nottingham Forest both won again at the weekend and continue to keep Newcastle in their sights. Speaking after their big win over Cardiff, Chris Hughton said: “It’s a big achievement. This group of lads deserve all the credit that goes along with it. We are a strong team in this division, but that has brought pressure from day one. We are a big club in the Championship, but that means we are there to be shot at. There’s pressure everywhere we go. That’s something we’ve had to deal with, but we’ve dealt with it well. That was certainly our most open performance and I’m sure many of the supporters will view it as their most enjoyable game of the season.”
Newcastle will look to continue their unbeaten run this week with two potentially tricky away games. On Saturday they face play-off contenders Swansea City but first up on Tuesday night are Derby County. Nigel Clough’s side are not far from the relegation places and are on a mixed run of form. They recently became the toast of Tyneside when they inflicted a rare defeat on Nottingham Forest in their derby game. They also held Newcastle comfortably at bay for most of the game in their match at St James’ Park. It would appear that they are one of the many unpredictable sides in the Championship who can raise their game on certain days. In other news Andy Carroll has been charged with assault following an alleged incident at a Newcastle nightclub late last year.