Sandwiched between the heavyweight bouts of Liverpool vs Manchester United and Manchester City against Arsenal was last season’s 2 surprise packages Newcastle United (who surprised even themselves and finished 5th) and Norwich City (who were comfortably safe despite being tipped for relegation) going head-to-head at St. James’ Park in a 3 o’clock kick off. It was Chris Hughton’s first return to the North East since his sacking almost 2 years ago and he recieved huge applause from the Geordie faithful who are keen to recognize what he did for the club; guiding them back to the Premiership in their first attempt.
The game was a scrappy affair with few chances and fewer goals. Norwich played in the increasingly popular 4-2-3-1/4-5-1 with star striker Grant Holt on the bench whereas Newcastle reverted to 4-4-2 after the first half horror show against Everton when they attempted to play 4-3-3. Thanks to superbly taken goal by Demba Ba (ably assisted by live-wire Ben Arfa) Newcastle managed to come away with all 3 points and have now got 7 out of 9 at home this season. We knew Demba Ba was a good finisher before the game, but what was learnt in those 90 minutes about the Magpies who are now in the midst of a hellish run of games?
1. Mike Williamson Is An Able Deputy
Although Ben Arfa will once again get the plaudits for another great performance this week (once again he was Newcastle’s main attacking threat) it was Mike Williamson who caught the eye. The 3rd-choice centre-back is often maligned for his positional play and tendency to give away fouls but against Norwich he was excellent and a contender for MotM. He won 11 aerial duels, blocked a header on-the-line and even won a penalty (which Papiss Cisse then blasted over the bar). He also made 15 clearances and conceded only 4 fouls all game, which must be some sort of record for the 28-year-old.
Pardew will still be eagerly awaiting the return of his curly-haired Captain but should Williamson maintain this kind of form in the Europa League he could push either Steven Taylor or Fabricio Collocini for a first team place regardless of injuries. A healthy competition for first team places should lead to better performances from the players who do manage do get their names on the team sheet.
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This article was first posted on September 24, 2012