Newcastle United were swiftly brought down to earth from the high of beating top of the table Chelsea in midweek with a 2-1 home loss to Stoke City. Going into the game on the back of two very impressive performances against Chelsea and Everton most Newcastle fans will expected to take all three points from Sunday’s game, but a second half collapse against the rejuvenated Potters saw them suffer another home defeat. With home defeats against Blackpool and Stoke already this season Chris Hughton must feel that his side have dropped six points that could prove vital come the end of the campaign. St James’ Park would appear not to be the fortress that it was in the Championship where the Magpies spent the whole season unbeaten.
A lack of creativity was one the keys to Newcastle’s defeat as they struggled to break down a well drilled Stoke outfit. It was particularly glaring in the first half as they looked bereft of ideas in the final third as the away side were content to defend deep and put 10 men behind the ball. It was only with the referee’s decision to award a clear penalty that Newcastle finally looked like going ahead in the game. With Andy Carroll leading the line at times as a lone striker he was easily controlled by a Stoke defence more than capable of attacking balls pumped into the penalty area. A lack of pace in behind the defence was also apparent with no player able to make runs behind the lines of the Stoke City back four. Wide men Wayne Routledge and Hatem Ben Arfa both had quiet games and failed to provide many dangerous crosses for the likes of Carroll and Kevin Nolan to attack. Ben Arfa spent most of his time on the pitch drifting inside although he did look a threat with the ball at his feet. It was only until the second half introduction of Jonas Gutierrez that Newcastle began to look a threat in wide areas. As the game became more stretched in the last 10 minutes chances began to open up more often.
With two home defeats in succession Chris Hughton may decide to tinker with a 4-4-1-1 formation that has proved much more successful on the road than at home. Carroll and Nolan have scored a satisfactory seven goals in six league matches so far this season yet against Stoke their partnership failed to fire. A quick striker to make runs in behind and gamble on Carroll’s ability to win the majority of balls in the air may give Hughton another option in attack, however, the only players in the squad who posses that ability are Peter Lovenkrands and Nile Ranger, both relatively unproven at Premier League level. Hughton felt after the game that his side had been taught a lesson by a Stoke side who have become adept at making the most of their resources. He said: “We
A post-match inquest was held after the game as Hughton kept his side in the dressing room for longer than usual. Given the way his side submitted in the second half to Stoke’s aerial bombardment of the penalty area a number of questions will have been asked. Full back Jose Enrique revealed in the Newcastle Chronicle: “After the game Chris was angry. There were mistakes made by everybody and people know when they’ve made them. When I play well I know I have, but when I make mistakes I don’t need to be told. Everyone knows we can’t afford to play like we did in the second half again, or we will lose more games. We had a meeting after the game.” Under Hughton’s management Newcastle have generally bounced back when they have suffered a defeat. But with Manchester City away coming up next weekend it will be difficult for them to make up for their shortcomings against Stoke.