Newcastle United moved back to the summit of the Championship after a successful weekend. There was much frustration around St. James after being held by QPR in midweek. However, the fans and players responded well after a tricky fixture with Steve McClaren returning with his Derby team.
Things looked woeful after Wednesday night. However, Chris Hughton’s Brighton side couldn’t take advantage of their game in hand as they failed to beat Huddersfield. This gave United the chance to move into top spot ahead of the game against Derby.
Steve McClaren made his first return to St. James since being sacked. Much had been made of the St. James’ Park atmosphere in the run-up to the game. However, with help of the Gallowgate flags, the atmosphere was dramatically better than Wednesday nights. This seemingly helped on the pitch with United starting strongly. A flurry of shots sailed wide of the mark or into the hands of Scott Carson with United really pressing.
However, it took until 27 minutes for a Matt Ritchie deflected effort to find its way into Carson’s net. The ball deflecting off Bradley Johnson after Mitrovic’s smart chest down was handed to Diame who provided a return pass which Mitrovic played through to Ritchie. However, United should have doubled their lead shortly after with Mo Diane firing straight at Carson.
The second period saw multiple chances for United to secure victory. Aleksandar Mitrovic failing to finish from close range to disappoint an expectant Gallowgate. Ayoze Perez would replace Issac Hayden who nearly found a second seeing his shot blocked by Richard Keogh. United began to lose momentum as Derby grew into the game late on. Tom Ince had a golden chance to equalise but instead, he sliced an easy finish in front of the travelling County fans. Furthermore, Derby piled on the pressure with Anya going close. However, the Toon Army got behind their side and almost found themselves rewarded when Perez was clear. However, his 40-yard lob was cleared as Carson made a clumsy challenge on the Spaniard. Referee Darren Bond questionably failing to give a foul, capping off a poor performance adding to catalogue of poor refereeing this season.
DeAndre Yedlin would be the hero late on, clearing Darren Bent’s header off the line. With Brighton only drawing on Sunday afternoon, United will stay top ahead of a tough set of fixtures. However, United fans should be encouraged by the character shown against a promotion hopeful. With a tough run of fixtures ahead, we can only hope that this character continues.
Feature Image credit: Martin Le Roy