Rout at St. James' sends the Iron bottom of the table
The Magpies went into this home game looking to establish themselves in the top half of the table following their win away at Wigan last time out. West Ham were also showing good form though as they hadn’t lost in four and were moving away from the drop zone, however they got a serious reality check at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle started the game very brightly indeed with Leon Best on his first Premier League start for the club having two chances in the first five minutes. The first was just a half chance on the volley which he was on the stretch for. However, the second came from an excellent Joey Barton cross from the right flank which Best met but couldn’t get his header on target.
The game settled down fairly quickly though as both sides looked to get the ball down and play on the floor, and it was a flowing West Ham passing move that created the next chance of the game. Scott Parker made a trademark burst out of midfield and struck the ball fiercely at goal, but Steve Harper turned the ball away. As Jonas Gutierrez looked to break from the parry Radoslav Kovas lunged in horribly on the Argentine and became the first to pick up a yellow card on the night.
It was looking like Newcastle were missing their regular strike partnership of Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi until Best and Peter Lovenkrands burst into life in the 19th minute. A long ball out of defence was excellently won in the air by Best as he left James Tomkins on the floor after the challenge. His knock-down was met by Lovenkrands who chipped a through ball forward which the Irishman burst onto and coolly finished past Robert Green to put his side one-nil up.
This seemed to give Newcastle added confidence and they began to keep possession very effectively. The Magpies especially looked very dangerous down their left flank with Gutierrez and Jose Enrique getting forward at every opportunity, Tal Ben Haim especially struggling with Gutierrez’s pace and trickery.
West Ham failed to get much going at all and certainly couldn’t create anything going forward. Avram Grant had been quite adventurous playing both Carlton Cole and Fredric Piquionne upfront, but both were left isolated and failed to get into the game at all in the first half.
Gutierrez continued to look like the most dangerous player on the pitch and stung the hands of Green in the 34th minute as he cut in from the left and hit a shot through a crowd of players. The Hammers keeper watched it well though and made the save.
Newcastle made their superiority pay in the 39th minute when Joey Barton took a clever quick free-kick which played in Lovenkrands down left hand side of the West Ham box. The Dane flashed the ball across the six yard box and there was Best at the back post who took a touch and fired home past Green and some desperate lunges from the defenders in claret and blue. The man making his first start of the season was certainly staking a claim for more regular first team action.
West Ham looked punch-drunk at the back and it only took the home side five minutes to make it 3-0 and for the Geordie faithful to go in to half-time absolutely delighted. An over-hit Cheick Tiote cross found its way to Gutierrez on the left wing who fired the ball back across goal. Tomkins’ woes in central defence continued though as his poor clearance fell straight to Kevin Nolan inside the box and the Magpies’ skipper expertly passed the ball into the back of the net. The ex-Bolton man made it look very easy but it really was an excellent first time finish.
The half came to an end shortly after and Newcastle looked extremely comfortable, which the score-line clearly reflected. Missing their first choice strikers was not harming them at all as their midfield looked sensational at times. The passing abilities of Barton and Nolan, the energy of Tiote and the dribbling skills of Gutierrez really is proving a potent combination and this was reflected in the 55% possession the home side enjoyed in the first 45 minutes.
West Ham just couldn’t keep the ball and certainly couldn’t create any chances with Freddie Sears, Piquionne and Cole barely being in the game. The back four also looked vulnerable throughout, Tomkins especially looking susceptible in central defence.
There were three changes at half time with Mike Williamson replacing Stephen Taylor for Newcastle and Valon Behrami and Victor Obinna coming on for Piquionne and Kovac for the Hammers. The home side’s change was enforced due to a hamstring strain suffered by Taylor, the away side were just looking to shake things up and hopefully gain some more possession as they pushed Sears upfront with Obinna just behind and Behrami on the right.
The second half started very sedately as Newcastle seemed to be more than happy with their lead and content to allow the visitors some of the ball. It was hard to say whether it was the substitutions or the home side taking their foot off the pedal that was making the difference. Either way the Hammers still couldn’t create much at all, Jose Enrique especially looking imperious at the back for the Toon.
Leon Best was anything but sedate though as he made it an even more miserable night for the visitors in the 60th minute as he bagged his hat-trick amaking it look all too easy for Newcastle. Barton picked the ball up in the middle of midfield played the ball into the feet of Lovenkrands who flicked it into Best on the edge of the area. Inexplicably the man who already had two goals was completely unmarked in the middle of the goal 20 yards out and he comfortably strode forward and finished on his left foot for the third time.
As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough for Grant and his side just five minutes later Barton broke down the right flank and put in a low cross into the six yard box. Yet more terrible defending from West Ham meant that Lovenkrands was there and goal-side of the defender to poke the ball past Green. The fifth was just rubbing more salt into the already heavily wounded visiting side.
Leon Best got the standing ovation he deserved in the 64th minute as he was brought off, seemingly having been linking since scoring his third. The home fans stood and applauded him off the field as he was replaced by Nile Ranger. Shane Ferguson replaced the impressive Gutierrez a minute later as Alan Pardew seemed happy to give his youngsters a go while his team was so comfortable.
West Ham were looking ragged by the time Zavon Hines came on for Mark Noble in the 70th minute and the substitution did nothing to change the situation. The Magpies coming close to making it six soon after, and in fact it’s a wonder how they didn’t. Substitute Ranger was fed by Nolan six yards out with just the ’keeper in front of him and somehow managed to put his first time shot wide of the post. It was possibly the simplest of all the chances Newcastle created but it mattered little by that stage.
The Hammers were becoming increasingly frustrated as Hines was booked, Obinna missed a very good chance and then Ben Haim entered the referee’s note book as well. The travelling fans were bravely staying till the end, but it their night was getting worse and worse.
Pardew was so comfortable with the situation that when Tiote felt a slight niggle with ten minutes to go he simply took him off and didn’t replace him as all the substitutions had been made.
The closing stages lacked quality as both teams seemed tired and were clearly well aware the game had been over for some time. West Ham were still probing away when they had the ball, but the home defence still looked comfortable and Barton was still full of running in front of them.
Just when the men from east London thought they finally had something to cheer about in the 90th minute, Hines’ poked finish past Harper was ruled out for offside. It was the right decision but cruel on the away fans who had a terrible evening in the north-east. Newcastle had perhaps become a little sloppy in the last ten or fifteen minutes, but few could blame them after their exerts in the first 70 minutes.
As the referee blew the final whistle it put West Ham out of their misery, but they will have been even more dejected when they saw other results conspired against them to move them back to the foot of the table. In contrast though, a sterling performance from the Magpies sees them to continue to look up the Premier League as this resounding result moves them into 8th place.