Here is the second part of my Newcastle season review. You can find the first part here.
November started with a home match against Cardiff City. Both wingers, Atsu and Gouffran, combining on the scoresheet in the absence of the suspended Matt Ritchie. The Welsh side caused a late scare when they scored with 15 minutes to go but the damage had already been done. The month got even better with a trip to Leeds. Gayle pounced on a mistake from Rob Green and then doubled his total 30 minutes later, Newcastle chalking up another three points on the board. All good things have to come to an end, and so did Newcastle’s nine-game winning streak. A shock defeat to Blackburn broke the streak. A combination of a massively rotated team and poor finishing spelt defeat for the Toon. Next up was the EFL quarterfinals against Hull. In a match where Newcastle dominated, poor finishing let them down again and Hull went on to claim victory on penalties in a hugely disappointing loss.
December started in a crazy fashion against Nottingham Forest. Both Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett were red carded, Karl Darlow saved two penalties and a late Jamaal Lascelles own goal gave Forest all three points. Shelvey was sent off for kicking out at someone, Dummett was sent off for nudging someone in the box, and Darlow kept Newcastle in the match for most of the night. A mad evening ending in bitter defeat. Although both red cards were later rescinded. Newcastle were winless in three and desperate to turn that around. They did that in emphatic style with a 4-0 win over Birmingham. Dwight Gayle netted a hat trick and Gouffran finished the rout. Next was a trip to Wigan and a chance to leapfrog Brighton. Mo Diame scored the first of the match with a surging run through the box and Christian Atsu finished Wigan off.
After that was another away match against Burton in the tiny Pirelli Stadium. Gayle’s 17th of the summer and a Mo Diame goal secured another win on the road for Newcastle which made sure Newcastle would be top at Christmas.
For the next match against Sheffield Wednesday, Jonjo Shelvey faced the first of his 5 match suspension. This proved to fatal as Newcastle couldn’t form a reply to Loovens’ opener. The Toon finished 2016 top of the pile after claiming a 3-1 win against Nottingham Forest. This time a Forest player was sent off with Ritchie and two from Gayle winning the match.
2017 opened with a trip to Blackburn Rovers and another disappointing defeat to them. Newcastle 25 shots but somehow could not score, of course, Blackburn punished the home side and scored a late free kick to win it. After that was an FA Cup match away against Birmingham. It ended 1-1 but was overshadowed by a serious looking injury to Mitrovic. Luckily it was only a cut, not a broken leg which was initially feared. The third away match in a row came against Brentford. Gayle opened the scoring after 20 minutes but was unfortunately taken off injured less than 10 minutes later. Lasse Vibe
The third away match in a row came against Brentford. Gayle opened the scoring after 20 minutes but was unfortunately taken off injured less than 10 minutes later. Lasse Vibe equalised a few minutes after half-time but substitute Daryl Murphy got a winner with 10 minutes to go.
Next was an FA Cup replay against Birmingham and the return of Jonjo Shelvey from a five-match ban. A brace from Matt Ritchie and one from Gouffran put Newcastle into the next round. Rafa Benitez’s men then pipped Brighton to first place after demolishing Rotherham 4-0. Murphy got one, Ritchie got two and Ayoze got one. The month ended with a shocking 3-0 defeat to League One Oxford. A massively rotated team fell to a disappointing defeat. No excuses for it. Onwards and upwards to February.
Feature image credit: Martin Le Roy