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Newcastle United 2–0 West Ham United
Brian Jeeves reporting from St James’ Park
Sam Allardyce parted company with West Ham United after relegation-threatened Newcastle United comfortably brushed aside his woeful Hammers at St James’ Park, secure their place in the Barclays Premier League in the process.
This news came of little surprise to most people connected with the Boleyn ground outfit, the fans relationship towards their Dudley born boss has always been somewhat frosty. The club now begins the search for a new man to take up the hot seat, with David Moyes, Slaven Bilic and Steve McClaren amongst the names currently being banned around as a possible replacement.
Hammers arrived in the North-East without any kind of consistency. Despite producing a decent display a week previous against Everton at Upton Park, it was an all too familiar late goal that cost the east Londoners’ dearly. Nevertheless, the Hammers were determined to end their campaign with a flourish.
The situation was quite desperate for Newcastle. The Magpies hadn’t tasted victory since Aston Villa’s visit in late February. And following a disappointing defeat at Queen’s Park Rangers the equation was very simple for John Carver’s men, equal or better Hull City’s result against Manchester United or drop into the Championship.
St James’ Park has been far from harmonious of late. Poor form coupled with the Geordie supporters’ unremitting resentment towards owner Mike Ashley and John Carver only added to a raucous and distinctly edgy atmosphere.
Head Coach Carver used his programme note to reaffirm that his teams’ fate was in their own hands, stating “We know that if we win, nothing else matters” – However, with demonstrations taking place outside the stadium, those words appeared somewhat shallow to the diehard Geordie fanatics.
But putting their differences aside for ninety minutes, the home crowd whipped up a frenetic atmosphere, and it was their side who made the bolder start. Emmanuel Riviere’s low drive fizzed across the face of Adrian’s goal after a sweeping move down the right involving Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko. Soon after Riviere was again troubling the Hammers, this time sending an acrobatic scissor kick into the side netting after Daryl Janmaat had centred.
The Magpies continued to dominate. Janmaat zipped an effort just off target with a relieved Adrian at full stretch, but when West Ham finally sprung forward, Tim Krul did well to block from Stewart Downing, this after Aaron Cresswell had picked the former Middlesbrough man out.
The Hammers’ had found their feet. Cresswell’s teasing cross had Krul scurrying, but drifted past an upright, while at the other end Riviere fluffed his lines after finding some space inside the visitors’ box. And the home side passed up another glorious opportunity when Janmaat’s free header was wayward after Jack Colback had driven in from the left.
As the half drew to a close, Colback sent another effort the wrong side of the woodwork, and with the scores also still level at Hull, Newcastle’s players received a subdued reception as they left the field for their half time cuppa.
And the mood deteriorated further when Colback teed up an open goal, but neither Cisse nor Riviere were on hand to benefit. But within minutes St James Park exploded into life. Gutierrez picked out Sissoko with a pinpoint cross, and the French midfielder beat Adrian with a thumping downward header.
The Newcastle fans were now in a frenzy, greeting every accurate pass and crisp tackle in the same manner of a goal, in stark contrast the travelling contingent from east London voiced their displeasure when Allardyce replaced striker Enner Valencia with Morgan Amalfitano.
Skipper Fabricio Coloccini almost added a second for Newcastle with an audacious volley after Colback and Janmaat had fashioned the opening. While the Geordie crowd had their hearts in their mouths when Kevin Nolan scuffed agonisingly wide from eighteen yards.
Vurnon Anita should have sealed the result for the home side after picking the pocket of Cresswell and racing the length of the field. But only found Adrian’s outstretched hand. But when Jonas Gutierrez unleashed a deflected angled drive, the Spanish keeper could do very little to prevent Newcastle all-but securing their safety.
Gutierrez was rumoured to be playing his final game for the Magpies. The player has cemented his place in Geordie folk law after bravely fighting testicular cancer before resuming his career. His celebration that followed the goal showed just how much he and the fans meant to each other.
The St James’ Park party was now in full swing, referee Martin Atkinson’s whistle confirmed Newcastle had avoided the drop. And the drama didn’t end there, with many Newcastle fans staging an ‘occupation’ of St James’ Park in yet another protest against owner Ashley.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini (capt), Mike Williamson, Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita (Yoan Gouffran 89), Papiss Cisse, Jack Colback, Jonas Gutierrez, Daryl Janmaat, Emmanuel Riviere, Paul Dummett Subs not used: Ryan Taylor, Siem De Jong, Ayoze Perez, Remy Cabella, Samuel Ameobi, Freddie Woodman
Booked: Moussa Sissoko (over-celebrating), Jonas Gutierrez (over-celebrating)
Goals: Moussa Sissoko 54′, Jonas Gutierrez 85′
West Ham United: Adrian, Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Kevin Nolan (capt), Cheikhou Kouyate (Elliot Lee 77′), Stewart Downing, Carl Jenkinson, Carlton Cole, Alex Song, Enner Valencia (Morgan Amalfitano 63′), Reece Burke (James Tomkins 69′) Subs not used: Matt Jarvis, Nene, Joey O’Brien, Jussi Jaaskelainen
Booked: Morgan Amalfitano (foul)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: M Mullarkey and S Child
Fourth Official: K Friend