Newcastle Utd glowing after West Brom win

Moussa Sissoko celebrates with the substitutes bench after scoring Newcastle's second goal of the game during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and West Brom at St James's Park
Moussa Sissoko celebrates with the substitutes bench after scoring Newcastle's second goal of the game during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and West Brom at St James's Park

FALSE position? False hopes? Maybe.

But what is true is that Newcastle United, on recent evidence, are again a team, possibly a team going places.

Few fans will be getting carried away, however.

This is Newcastle, after all. Anything can happen.

But at the start of December, the club is sixth in the Premier League, and handily placed going into the two-month period that often makes or breaks a season.

United looked a broken team at times last season.

There were dysfunctional, disjointed domestic performances. Too often, Newcastle were a team of individuals.

Yet this season it’s been a collective effort. There’s been a fix, and it doesn’t look like a quick one.

The players’s faces told their own story after Saturday evening’s 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.

There were smiles as the players headed down the tunnel at St James’s Park towards their cars. But they also looked drained. This hadn’t been an easy match.

It was the kind of match that United have all to often drawn – or lost – at home in recent years.

West Brom were disciplined and organised. They made it hard for Newcastle. The midfield was congested, and the opening 20 minutes was scrappy.

But slowly, United started to apply themselves in the opposition half.

And it was Moussa Sissoko – and his drive and energy on the right side of midfield – who got them going.

He was behind chances for Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi. Remy’s header was blocked, and Ameobi’s weak left-footed shot was easily gathered by Boaz Myhill.

But Newcastle had a momentum, and their pressure told in 36th minute.

Having failed to score from a corner in more than two years, United made their breakthrough from a flag kick for the second successive game.

Yohan Cabaye swung the ball over, and Myhill, under pressure from Ameobi, punched it into the air.

Yoan Gouffran, the unsung hero of United’s attack, met the ball with his head when it dropped.

The first of two contentious decisions from referee Phil Dowd came before the break.

Dowd failed to penalise Jonas Olsson for pulling down Remy – who had a clear run at goal – late in the half.

Boss Alan Pardew was incensed, and his mood will have darkened early in the second half when Chris Brunt superbly cracked home an equaliser after a right-wing Morgan Amalfitano cross found him unmarked at the far post.

The lead, however, would be short-lived.

Sissoko made sure of that.

Remy headed on a throw-in, and Sissoko paused for a split second after running on to the ball before unleashing a fearsome right-footed shot from just outside the box.

Myhill had no chance. It was unstoppable.

Pardew, surprisingly, left his substitutions until late, but his jaded players saw the game out. They might even have had a late penalty when a Cabaye shot struck the arm of Billy Jones.

The club ended the day in fifth. Yes, fifth.

The team has come a long way since the Wear-Tyne derby defeat at the end of October, when Pardew’s future was again questioned by some supporters.

Since then, he’s found a way to win. Strangely, it’s been with an old-fashioned 4-4-2 system. And Hatem Ben Arfa hasn’t had a look in.

There’s a resourcefulness about Newcastle with the ball, and a resilience out of possession.

United are playing with pace and purpose and Shola Ameobi’s inclusion in the starting XI hasn’t seen them play long.

Pardew, recalling an old TV advert for Ready Brek cereal, talked about Newcastle’s players having a “glow” around them after the game.

Certainly, their efforts were faultless last month. There is a glow about the club.

But this is another month with another set of challenges.

However, United, on recent evidence, looked well-equipped to meet those challenges.