Following a brutal week where they suffered a pair of losses to Chelsea, Newcastle Manager Cameron Gordon had to refocus his squad in order to finish the EPL season on a promising note and attempt to earn a spot in one of the European competitions. The goals were clear, win your games and let the chips fall where they may. On the schedule, a pair of matches with hard working teams Stoke City and Wigan Athletic, hosting league leaders Manchester City and the season finale at Everton.
“We will be ready and control what we can,” said Gordon before the match against Stoke. “We have put ourselves in this position by dropping points in games where we held the lead. This team is good enough to compete in Europe and I believe we are building something special here. If we can finish strong, we can show the entire soccer world what we here believe. We can be a top side.”
Behind the bold statement of their manager, Newcastle struggled to finish in their match with Stoke. Although they defended well, one goal against and only eight shots allowed, the Magpie’s could not take advantage of their chances. While firing twenty-two shots toward the Stoke net, only a Demba Ba equalizer in the 62nd minute could beat Thomas Sorenson in goal as the first game of the final push ended in a 1-1 draw.
After a week to think about more dropped points, Newcastle travelled to Wigan to take on a bottom of the table side that had lost their last three games. Wigan, known for their physical, hard play, was also looking to bounce back as they attempt to stay in the Premier League.
The match went the way Newcastle had hoped as they jumped out to a 3-0 first half lead behind a pair of goals from Demba Ba and Gabriel Obertan’s 27th marker of the season. A sense of completion seemed to affect the Newcastle players and the game made a dramatic change from the 42nd minute on, as Wigan played a desperate style. Unfortunately for the home side they had waited too long as Newcastle was able to hold on for a 3-2 victory. The loss may have sealed Wigan’s fate as demotion seems to be in their future.
A week of focused and consistent training for Newcastle’s complete roster preceded Manchester City’s visit on one of the biggest match days of the season. The league leaders had beaten Newcastle twice this year already, knocking the out of the Carling Cup and handing them their most lopsided defeat, but they had fallen on hard times. After jumping out to a huge lead in the table, Manchester City was slumping, getting just a single point in the last four games, as injuries and inconsistent play had become their norm.
The match opened cautiously, as neither team seemed ready or perhaps reluctant to make a mistake. There was a sense that neither team was confident, Newcastle’s knowledge of the strength of their opponent and Manchester City’s fragile mindset due to recent form. A quiet first ended tied at one as Obertan and Wesley Sneijder traded goals in the 29th and 30th minutes respectively.
A half time speech that will go down in Newcastle history followed the first forty-five and a confident Magpie squad emerged from the dressing room. Confident and with a specific strategy, Newcastle took just five minutes to begin scoring and did not let up until the final whistle. They attacked the City back line, especially through the middle and found opportunity after opportunity in a record setting performance that saw the team score seven goals on the way to demolishing the league leaders 8-1.
Leading the way was man of the match Gabriel Obertan who notched four goals and set up Vuckic’s injury time marker. The goals put the league leader at 31 and should secure the Golden Boot, if not Footballer of the Year as well. He was followed by a hat trick from Yohan Cabaye who scored three goals between the 79th and 86th minute, including another from the penalty spot.
“I’m incredibly impressed with our men today,” said Gordon post match. “We did not like the way we played against them earlier this season and really felt we could compete better with them. As impressed as I am with the goals, our defending was what I think we should hang our hat on. Holding a team as talented as them to just four shots on goal is why we were successful today.”
The win, along with wins by the teams above them, secured seventh place in the table for Newcastle and gave Arsenal an outside shot at the league title.
A trip to Everton followed in a match that had no real effect on the table. Everton sits just behind Newcastle, but the gap was too much to make up in a single match. Peter Lovenkrands was added to the substitutes as the long-time Magpie has reached the end of his contract and it is unknown whether he will return to Newcastle next season.
The game was a hard fought ninety minutes, but Newcastle used a pair of goals from Demba Ba to secure a 2-1 victory and finish the season by getting eleven of the possible twelve points from the final four matches. The team has secured a spot in the Europa League and finishes well above the expectations of many of the pre-season predictions of bottom of the table finish. Stay tuned for an interview with Manager Cameron Gordon who will return next season and will give you his feeling for the team going forward.
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