Newcastle United gave Sir Bobby Robson a fitting send-off as they produced a classy performance to beat Ipswich Town 4-0. On a day when fans of Sir Bobby’s two favourite English sides gathered to pay their final respects to the great man it was his boyhood club who were by far superior. A hat-trick from Kevin Nolan and a freekick by Ryan Taylor made sure that Newcastle returned from Suffolk on top of the Championship once more. Results could not gave gone much better at the weekend with Middlesbrough, West Brom and Sheffield United all having disappointing results.
Newcastle made the most of an Ipswich team low on confidence and fragile at the back. Three goals in the space of five minutes around the half hour mark effectively ended the game as a contest. Goalkeeper Steve Harper had his quietist 90 minutes for some time as he was not tested until the final 10 minutes when it was too little too late. A number of injuries and suspensions meant that Newcastle were forced into a slightly make shift line up. A lack of options in midfield meant that Nicky Butt was used in an unfamiliar slot on the left hand side of midfield. Not that it really mattered as both of Newcastle’s full-backs got forward to good effect to counter the lack of width. Young strikers Andy Carroll and Nile Ranger both worked hard up front for the side and unsettled Ipswich’s defence with their aerial power.
Kevin Nolan enjoyed his best display for The Magpies so far, netting his first ever professional hat-trick. Nolan has really settled in at Newcastle now and looks back to the player he was in his Bolton days. He has emerged as a key figure in the dressing room with his vast experience and Scouse wit. He appears to be a much more popular figure among the fans and players than fellow Liverpudlian Joey Barton. Nolan has been used in a more advanced midfield role this season allowing him to get in the opponents penalty area much more often. The move has reaped rewards with Nolan on six goals for the season already.
Another player to make his mark on Saturday was debutant Zurab Khizanishvilli. The Blackburn player was impressive at right back – solid in defence and not afraid to get forward. His aggressive attacking run was an important factor in the fourth goal. He later slotted into the centre back role when Fabricio Coloccini went off injured. Newcastle will hope that Coloccini and Ryan Taylor are both OK after both players limped out of the second half action. With two more games coming up this week injuries are the last thing Newcastle need.
Caretaker manager Chris Hughton was yet again pleased with his side’s performance. Speaking after the game he said: “I was delighted by that performance. It was just right from start to finish. The thing that pleased me most was that we did not concede. We were able to leave without conceding, and that is a massive feat sometimes in this division. Once we had the break we were able to take our chances. I think the players deserve a lot of credit for their performance. But everybody is switched on and now preparing for the next game.”
Mike Ashley, who attended the Ipswich game, is still awaiting the verdict from his legal battle with Kevin Keegan. The verdict should be announced early this week as the panel consider their findings. Keegan is claiming for more than the £8 million he could be due in lost earnings. There has been some speculation that if Keegan is successful then Ashley could be forced to put Newcastle into administration. The issue has divided some Newcastle fans in their feelings toward Keegan. While he still has the support of the majority of fans he has lost some of his popularity with the nature of the end of his second spell as manager.
Wednesday night sees Newcastle entertain QPR at St James’ Park in a league game. They currently have a 100% record at home with four wins from four games. QPR have improved as the season has gone on and netted five times against Barnsley at the weekend.
Newcastle United Club Focus
Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18
Home-grown strike partnership takes effect – August 21
Geordie resurgence gains momentum – August 25
Takeover still talk of the Toon – August 28
St James’ Park Ranger keeps Magpies firing – September 1
Ex-Magpie returns just as window shuts – September 4
Want-away striker leaves already thin squad – September 8
Former striker aims to shoot down Magpies – September 11
Newcastle return to Championship summit – September 15
Magpies upset on trip to the seaside – September 18
Magpies return to winning ways – September 22
Early cup exit shows where priorities are this season – September 25
Emphatic win a fitting tribute to Sir Bobby – September 29