A crowd of nearly 52,000 at St. James’ Park watched Newcastle display the best and worst that they are capable of inside 90 minutes as they surrendered a three goal lead to a Somen Tchoyi-inspired West Bromwich Albion to finish their Premier League season on somewhat sour note.
Steven Taylor’s third goal in as many games, added to a strike from Peter Lovenkrands and an own goal from Jonas Olsson, saw the Geordies race into what appeared to be an unassailable position with around 40 minutes of the second half remaining. But United’s collective minds clearly wandered to the beach a little bit too early, and midfielder Tchoyi was all to happy to cash in, adding a fantastic hat-trick to the goal he scored against Newcastle at the Hawthorns in December.
But despite this rather disheartening end to United’s return to England’s top division, they can look back on the 2010/11 season with a sense of pride. With many pundits predicting an immediate return to the Championship, Newcastle refused to settle merely for survival, instead taking the fight to sides like Aston Villa, Arsenal and Sunderland, all of whom were swept aside by United under Chris Hughton before the turn of the year. Though the Toon Army suffered their usual fair share of bad moments, such as defeats to Blackpool, Stoke and Stevenage in the FA Cup, and witnessed the departures of Chris Hughton and Andy Carroll, on the whole they will be pleased with their team’s showing.
Today’s game was just another example of the rollercoaster ride that is Newcastle United football club. Though West Brom’s defensive problems have been alleviated to some extent by the arrival of Roy Hodgson as manager, today was a return to the Baggies of the first half of the season. With Ryan Taylor providing crosses from the right and youngster Shane Ferguson looking a threat with his direct running on the left, Hodgson’s men, with Abdoulaye Meite filling an unfamiliar centre-back role, never looked comfortable in their own third of the pitch.
Steven Taylor’s goal came from poor marking from a corner, Scott Carson should’ve probably done better with Lovenkrands’ effort and Olsson’s own goal appeared to come as a result of miscommunication in the backline. But West Brom, even without top scorer Peter Odemwingie, refused to quit, and the craft of James Morrison and Chris Brunt, coupled with Tchoyi’s all action display, put them right back into the game. On balance, the Baggies were probably not worth a point, but Newcastle’s capitulation wasn’t worth a win either.
That sums up both team’s seasons’ succinctly enough, with both enjoying a topsy-turvy, but ultimately rewarding, return to life in the Premier League. Mid-table mediocrity it may be, but both Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson will be happy enough with 12th and 11th place finishes respectively. Now, the key is following up on this performance next season. For United at least, the summer will be imperative to avoiding a bout of ‘second season syndrome’