Magpies prove there is still spirit in the camp

22 August 2011 08:00
THROUGHOUT another summer of discontent on Tyneside, the spirit in the Newcastle United camp has been forced to endure its fair share of knocks.

Yet at the home of their arch-rivals, where Sunderland had been favoured to beat their old foes for only the second time in more than 31 years, the new-look Magpies came out fighting in the best way they could.

It's a safe bet that Sunderland supporters will have had a little joke at the expense of Newcastle during a close-season of uncertainty and madness.

But Ryan Taylor's terrific winner will mean those of a black and white persuasion will still be enjoying the laughs from the weekend.

There have, quite rightly, been doubts surrounding the overall atmosphere within the squad following outbursts from Joey Barton and the sale of dressing room leader Kevin Nolan.

But, for all of the unwanted distractions at St James' Park, manager Alan Pardew has delivered the perfect start to the new season.

If the goalless draw with Arsenal seven days earlier was not solid enough, the way Newcastle stuck together on Wearside to defeat a Sunderland squad with designs on a top eight finish this season deserves applause.

With Barton around to keep everyone on their toes and a performance built on local pride from Steven Taylor that was mirrored throughout a continental Newcastle line-up, Pardew is right to suggest his dressing room still has plenty character.

You wonder if the spirit will be there and sometimes you need results to reinforce that spirit, said Pardew, who hit the bars around Tyneside with his staff on Saturday night.

I'm not going to say that if we had lost the first two games then it wouldn't have been brought in to question, but it was reflected against Arsenal and again here.

It is about the team. It's about filling in for people and getting people out of trouble. It is about having good staff and making sure your senior players are looked after.

Monday to Friday we beat ourselves up at this club. On a match day you can't argue with the spirit. We were applauded for our spirit last year and we have not lost that spirit.

What helped to make Newcastle's success so impressive was that it arrived on the back of a summer when Sunderland's rebuilding went smoothly.

Nine additions were made to the senior squad and optimism was high around Sunderland that a rare victory over their Wear-Tyne counterparts could be achieved on home soil.

Instead of Bruce, the Corbridge-born boss who is keen to deliver on such afternoons because of his Geordie roots, celebrating his first derby victory, however, it was Pardew left to enjoy a drink with supporters afterwards.

The Newcastle boss, who last ventured out in town after the remarkable 4-4 draw with Arsenal in February, said: Newcastle is a passionate place. Whether the fans tell me something negative like 'sign a striker Pardew' or whatever, you just sense the passion and you have got to love that.

I have been at clubs who don't have that. They just don't have it. It's an ingredient you try to install in your team but you get it from the terraces at times. Here it is generated by our city. Wherever the players go they will be reminded of this city.

It was in the closing stages that Pardew turned to the travelling supporters in the South Stand at the Stadium of Light to lift the noise levels again.

With Newcastle leading through Ryan Taylor's goal, Sunderland were trying to push for a late equaliser like they delivered when the two teams met in January.

In truth Sunderland had already ran out of ideas. Bruce had brought on Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won to increase the striker numbers to four in the final stages, but goalkeeper Tim Krul was never tested.

Sunderland had started promisingly enough. Newcastle struggled to get the ball off the home team in the opening quarter of an hour, but Krul's tip over the bar from Stephane Sessegnon's 25 yard drive was the best chance created.

And Newcastle should have been ahead moments later but neither referee Howard Webb nor his assistant caught sight of Seb Larsson's left arm preventing Barton's close range header from going over the line.

Larsson should have been sent off and a penalty awarded. Instead Sunderland escaped as did goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who was guilty of missing Yohan Cabaye's corner in the build up to the incident.

But worse was to come for Mignolet. Firstly, though, Sessegnon almost turned in an Ahmed Elmohamady centre with his head before Asamoah Gyan turned Fabricio Coloccini on the stroke of half-time and curled a shot that shaved the bar from 20 yards.

But even during Sunderland's best spell, Newcastle caused problems every time they put the ball in to the penalty area and Bruce tried to address that.

When Jonas Gutierrez was tripped by Lee Cattermole on the corner of the 18-yard box just after the hour, the stage was set for Ryan Taylor to curl in the sort of dead ball that persuaded Newcastle to buy him.

The versatile right-back, playing left-back, floated his strike high over an out of position Mignolet and the ball dropped straight in to the net despite Steven Taylor's best efforts to get a touch on the line.

We know with Simon he is a young goalkeeper, who has played one year in the Premier League that he will make mistakes, said Bruce, who is considering whether to bring in Keiren Westwood at Brighton in the Carling Cup tomorrow night.

Bruce, who sold Ryan Taylor to Newcastle during his time in charge at Wigan, knows all about the former Tranmere man's ability from that position.

Pardew, who admitted the match-winner was only in the team because of an injury to James Perch ten days ago, said: Sometimes it is all about managers and big names in the team, but Ryan deserves the headlines. He was solid again and I'm pleased for him.

There was nothing fortunate about Newcastle's latest success at the Stadium of Light.

And when Phil Bardsley was sent off two minutes from time for an awful lunge on Coloccini that could have earned a straight red, Sunderland had succumbed and the city of Newcastle partied by the River Wear once more.

Source: Northern_Echo