In the build up to the fixture there were rumours that fans would boycott at least some of the game in protest of the Mike Ashley regime. However over 50,000 supporters were present inside St James’ Park to get behind their team. Before kick-off protests were held in and around the stadium to show the fans’ anger as the way in which their club has been run. It has become a regularly occurring sight on Tyneside in the three and a half years that Ashley has owned the club. It is a relationship which appears increasingly unsustainable but both parties are stuck with each other for the foreseeable future. Despite the threats to his own security Ashley was present at the game even with thousands of supporters venting their fury at him.
The game itself saw Newcastle eventually pick up a deserved win with a spirited display given the circumstances. Pardew chose not to tinker with the personal and formation too much making just two changes from the side that started Chris Hughton’s last game in charge. The return of Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan was essential in midfield as they brought some much needed quality into the final third. There was the odd nervy moment at the back with Sol Campbell still appearing short of the fitness and pace required at the top level. Pardew now has a week to assess a nearly fully fit squad before next weekend’s game with Birmingham. Sensibly in the post-match interviews Pardew chose to credit Hughton for his sterling work with the club rather than claim any credit for the victory.
Another man to praise Hughton after the match was Joey Barton who dedicated his deserved man of the match award to him. Hughton played an important role in helping Barton to revive his faltering career with the Magpies and managed to get more out of him than any other manager. It was no coincidence that in the four games the midfielder recently missed through suspension and injury Newcastle failed to win a game. His return saw improved quality from out wide and dead ball situations, hugely important with a player like Andy Carrol in the team. His second goal proved crucial as he just managed to poke the ball into the net from close range. Earlier this week Newcastle turned down an approach from strugglers West Ham for Barton. The Hammers were keen to exploit the turmoil on Tyneside and bring Barton to the capital in January.