Striker light guvnor?
Newcastle Utd, and particularly Andy Carroll, put a difficult week behind them with a convincing victory over the Irons of East End London. The 2-1 scoreline doesn't suggest the ease with which Newcastle cruised to three points in a dominant second half display.
Supporters waited for the line-up with baited breath. The general consenus being that Andy Carroll could be dropped in view of the assault claims against him, and the arson attack on his car outside Kevin Nolan's house in midweek. But retaining his place in the side, the striker justified Hughton's decision with a towering and committed 90 minutes.
And yet, ten minutes into the game, when Carlton Cole give the hosts a 1-0 lead, a ragged looking Newcastle side looked to be on the way to a familiar top flight defeat in the capital.
With Danny Simpson replacing the hapless James Perch at right back, his cover was provided by Joey Barton who was asked to play out of position on the right of midfield. His midfield berth was filled comfortably, and then some, by the ample frame of the returning Kevin Nolan. Shola Ameobi replaced Lovenkrands upfront.
Stung by the goal, the away side finally began to find their feet and when Joey Barton swung a teasing cross into the West Ham box, Andy Carroll's header fell loosely to the advancing Nolan, who swept the ball in clinically to level the scores. There were chances at either end but the teams went into half time at 1-1 with the outcome looking far from inevitable.
But if the first half was even, the second half proved to be a much more one-sided affair. Newcastle looked assured and confident throughout with a steady defensive shift, a dominant display from the entire midfield, and the two big strikers making a nuisance of themselves.
The deciding goal was manufactured by an in-form Joey Barton, his clever ball with the outside of his foot found Ameobi in the channel. Ameobi's lay off back to Barton was whipped in beautifully and this time Andy Carroll finished it himself. With the defence trying bizarrely to play offside, Carroll launched himself and powered a header into the back of the net to score the winner.
There was no way back for West Ham after that, and Newcastle could easily have extended the margin of victory but for better finishing.
A tough trip on paper and with the headline-grabbing incidents of the week playing on players' minds, this can only go down as a job well done by eveyone. Many fans questioned the use of Barton being played out of position and while Barton drifted naturally inside, leaving Simpson exposed, the risk was mitigated by the lack of threat posed.
And the manager was vindicated with another convincing performance and another important three points away from home. Now to transfer those performances to St James' Park, starting with the derby next week, and this season might not be as uncomfortable as some would have us believe.
But the manager, the player and fans alike will be hoping for a positive outcome to young Andy Carroll's court case this week. Being light of a potential top goalscorer is something that everyone associated with the club can do without. And not just for football reasons.
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