Games between West Brom and Newcastle are never boring affairs. In the last eight meetings between the two teams there have been a staggering 35 goals in some really cracking encounters – including last season’s 3-3 on the final day and this season’s victory up at Newcastle.
With the sun shining brightly across the Hawthorns pitch, both sets of fans were in good voice and ready for what many expected to be a classic footballing battle.
Rpy Hodgson made four changes from the side that had drawn at Wigan last week with Jonas Olsson returning from suspension, taking the place of Nicky Shorey. Peter Odemwingie returned to the starting line-up after overcoming a calf problem, with Keith Andrews and Marc-Antoine Fortune also coming into the side. Alan Pardew named an unchanged side from the team that had beaten Norwich City 1-0 a week before.
The game began with a minute’s applause for Albion legend Ray Barlow, who passed away earlier in the month aged 85. Once both sets of fans finished the applause and referee Chris Foy started the game, the Albion were the quicker of the two out of the blocks, with Youssef Mulumbu shooting over the bar from 20 yards.
It was soon to change however, when Ben Foster was called into action after Demba Ba forced him to send the ball over the post after intercepting a Liam Ridgewell ball. This was a warning for the Albion and just a minute later Papiss Cisse gave Newcastle the lead, as he latched onto a Jonas Gutierrez square ball to tap in the opener. We have seen this happen many times at the Hawthorns and it has often woken the Albion up, but this was not the case as Newcastle seemed to improve with each passing minute.
After a couple of chances, Newcastle doubled their advantage just minutes later when Hatem Ben Arfa ran through the centre of the pitch and sent the ball into the back of the net, sending the travelling fans from the north-east into wild celebration. The goal resulted from a quick break by Newcastle, with Ridgewell unable to stop Ben Arfa on the halfway line. The little Frenh winger then exchanged passes with Cisse and kept his cool to send the ball past Foster from 15 yards out. This was going from bad to worse for us Albion fans.
The two goals had made the Albion a nervous side and Newcastle were playing with a lot of confidence, but the Albion still had chances despite not looking likely to score. Morrison sent a shot wide and balls were often being sent into Fortune, who was constantly being marked out of the game.
Just after the half hour mark, Odemwingie put the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled offside. By this stage, we were looking like we might crawl back into the game, unfortunately just a minute later Newcastle made it three. After another successful counter-attack Ben Arfa laid the ball inside to Cisse, who coolly converted to give him his second goal.
Half time and it was 3-0 to Newcastle. Now, we had been here before on the final game of last season. Chants of ‘We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again’ rang round the stadium when the players returned. Hodgson felt the need to make two changes, bringing on Chris Brunt for Jerome Thomas and Shane Long for Keith Andrews; changing the formation to 4-4-2. Newcastle also made a change with Davide Santon replacing Fabricio Coloccini.
Like the opening minutes of the first half, the Albion were the first to have a chance when Mulumbu saw a strong shot deflected away from goal. Then, Newcastle should have been four up when Cisse was clear through against Foster, only for the keeper to deny him a hat-trick.
In the 53rd minute, Shane Long got the home side a goal after he pounced on a loose ball following a mix-up between Newcastle defender Mike Williamson and keeper Tim Krul and sent the ball into the empty net. The comeback was on, or so we thought.
The Albion kept pressing towards goal, with Odemwingie and Long having shots at goal. The Albion soon used up their final substitution when Scharner came on for Mulumbu, who looked to be carrying an injury.
Disaster struck yet again for the Albion with ten minutes to go, as James Morrison limped off the pitch with an injury to his leg. Down to ten men, we still never gave up hope and tried to press for a goal, but it just wasn’t West Brom’s day.
Newcastle never looked like throwing away a three goal lead and three points, as they were the better team. They were well organised, read our game well and were very dangerous on the counter-attack. The visitors played very confidently and look like a team challenging for a top five place. As for West Brom’s performance, it wasn’t great and had parallels with Wigan away last week. The next game is a trip to Goodison Park on Saturday, which will be tough, but I don’t see why we can’t get a point from it.
Man of the Match: Ben Foster. Yet again, Foster kept us in the game, like he has for so much of this season. Admittedly, he may have let three in, but he also saved a great many more in what could have been a real hammering for us.