Walters 74 – Ba 12, 40, 81
The Premier League resembles a parallel universe these days. Here Newcastle have the most parsimonious defence in not just the top flight, but all four divisions of English football. Gone are the days of ‘glorious’ 4-3 defeats, in this world the men from St James’ Park leave that sort of entertaining up to the likes of Arsenal, Manchester united and Chelsea.
They’re unbeaten after 10 games – their best start since 1996. What’s more, they now sit in third place with only last season’s champions and FA Cup winners ahead of them; the best team outside of Manchester.
Stoke were unbeaten at home this season having conceded just one goal in the process. Before the game, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said he had a plan to deal with them, and it worked to perfection. His side harassed and hassled the home side throughout the match, closing them down at pace and refused to let them to play their game or cross. In short, they out-Stoked Stoke.
The first goal was a case in point. Tim Krul launched the ball long, Leon Best flicked on and Gabriel Obertan crossed for Demba Ba to head home at close range.
Five minutes before the break Ba hit the net again for his seventh in five games. This time Coloccini strode out of defence and hit a ball high into the area. Matthew Upson couldn’t deal with it and Best was able to scuff a shot into the path of a grateful Ba.
It looked like that was how the game would finish but Ba gave away a soft penalty after a slight push on Peter Crouch which Jon Walters hammered home. Tony Pulis’ men started a rearguard action in earnest but it was brought to a halt when Newcastle themselves were awarded a penalty following a push on Best by Robert Huth. This time it was Ba who made no mistake, sealing his hat-trick in the process.
The Magpies have benefited from a kind fixture list and that could come back to haunt them later this month when they travel to the two Manchester teams and then host Chelsea in three consecutive games.
Yet, Stoke have drawn with Chelsea and Manchester United and beaten Liverpool at home this season and Newcastle never really looked in danger in this game. Many are predicting that the Toon Army won’t be able to keep up this form, but who knows? Maybe in this strange new universe they can.
Pardew was far from a popular appointment in Newcastle when he replaced Chris Hughton last December. There were a lot of rumours circulating about why exactly he got the job. But after such a well drilled performance from his team as they gave against Stoke maybe people will have to accept he got the job because he’s actually quite good at it.
The England job will be up for grabs soon. The FA want an Englishman and if the recruitment process last time round was anything to go by they’ll give it to the one whose team’s on the best run of form at the time. What odds Newcastle will be looking for their ninth manager in five years come the summer?
Stoke (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross (Upson 19), Woodgate, Wilson (Huth 41); Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Jones 68); Walters, Crouch.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor; Obertan, Guthrie (Gosling 90+1), Cabaye (Perch 78), Gutierrez; Best (Ameobi 86), Ba.
Did you know…Before this match Stoke had lost just once in the league at home since the start of 2011, on the last day of last season to Wigan.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Everton