Yesterday afternoon, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle side gave their best performance of the season as they hammered high-flying Sheffield United 3-0 at St James’ Park.
The truth is, from the beginning to the end, Newcastle were the far superior side. We had more of the ball, more clear cut chances, the boys looked comfortable in defence and I couldn’t pick out a single poor performance.
That said, Sheffield United were miles off the pace. All season long, Chris Wilder’s side have been a top notch team, but that hasn’t stopped Steve Bruce’s black and white army getting six points from them.
Between some corking individual errors and a frankly stupid double yellow card for John Egan, the Blades just weren’t at the races at all.
In the first half, the game was tight but it was Newcastle doing the vast majority of the attacking.
The best chance of the half came around 18 minutes in when Miguel Almiron slid Joelinton through on goal. The Brazilian tried to open his body and side foot the ball across Dean Henderson, but got his effort all wrong and scuffed it straight to the keeper.
To his credit, Joelinton didn’t let the missed chance affect him too much and he was a constant thorn in the side of the Blades defence – particularly John Egan. The pair clashed in the first half, seeing both pick up yellow cards.
Not too long into the second half, Joelinton skinned Egan in the midfield and was looking to run through on goal but the Irishman hauled him back – earning a second yellow card and heading off for an early bath.
After that, it was all Newcastle at St James’ Park. Five minutes after the red, Newcastle took the lead in freakish circumstances. Matt Ritchie broke down the left wing with Almiron ahead of him for support and Saint-Maximin arriving at the back post.
The Scot opted to try and pick out Maxi at the back stick, but his cross was awful. It trickled along the floor straight to Enda Stevens – all he needed to do was clear it, but Stevens somehow missed the ball completely, allowing ASM to pounce and hammer it past Henderson to fire United into the lead.
After that, things were relatively comfortable. With a man advantage and a goal to the good, Bruce’s side were cruising. They took their foot off the gas and were nearly punished for it when Billy Sharp nodded wide, but that seemed to spark the team back into action.
In the 70th minute, Newcastle doubled their lead courtesy of Matt Ritchie – the provider(ish) of the first goal.
He picked the ball up on the left and drove at Chris Basham – with Danny Rose to the left, Basham couldn’t commit to close Ritchie down and Matty took advantage of that. He got to the edge of the area before hammering the ball inside the near post, leaving England’s future number one helpless.
Eight minutes later – the moment we’d all needed!! Joelinton played the ball wide to Almiron, who got to the byline and delivered a lovely low ball back to the Brazilian for him to finish, nabbing his first ever Premier League goal at St James’ Park! That was his last touch too, as Andy Carroll replaced him straight after.
That was very much that for Newcastle as the game wound to a close with Steve Bruce’s side very much the better side on the day. A dominant display from start to finish, aided by an uncharacteristically poor display from Sheffield United.
The win moves Newcastle to 38 points now, 11 above the relegation zone. The last time anyone went down with that many points was almost a decade ago, as Birmingham City were relegated with 39 in the 2010/11 season.
It means Steve Bruce’s side can pretty much stop worrying about relegation now and perhaps begin to look up the table, or even perhaps put all of their energy into the FA Cup.
It’s been a good season overall for Newcastle and this game pretty much seals survival – now to build on that and kick on next season… possibly with some Saudi investment.