Newcastle’s 1-0 away victory over struggling Bournemouth, which helped them climb out of the Premier League's bottom three, was nothing short of a modern day miracle.
Statistically, the hosts absolutely battered Steve McClaren’s troops, who hadn’t won in their last twelve away matches and had only scored three goals in that period.
Furthermore, the Magpies had won only two of their last 22 Premier League fixtures stretching back to last season, which made bleak reading for the Geordie faithful who had to embark on a near 365-mile journey - potentially spanning six hours - for this one.
SIGN UP NOW
Want to become a GMS writer? Sign up now and submit a 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay4
God only knows how long the supporters coach would have taken – Mike Williamson could have probably jogged down quicker.
Totally uncalled for swipes aside, Newcastle got the job done. That’s the long and short of it, it’s that black and white (pun intended) and any other cliché you want to attach to it.
Is it a sign that Steve McClaren is a great manager? In isolation, not overly. Is it indicative of a new found determination in the ranks? A little bit.
McClaren is due some credit, though - changing to 4-4-2 has been the best thing to happen to Newcastle.
Ditching Papiss Cisse down the middle of a forward three in a 4-3-3 formation unequivocally had to be done (as stated time and time again earlier in the season, dear readers), and not only are Aleksander Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez better individuals than Cisse, but their attributes mesh together extremely well, too.
Taking Georginio Wijnaldum out of the middle has worked wonders also as the Dutch international has been directly involved in eight of Newcastle's 13 goals this season in the Premier League. For all the endeavour Cheick Tiote, Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback might bring to the table – that’s a creatively bereft trio.
The 4-3-3 is a formation for teams that can indulge in football and dictate the tempo of games with strategic possession. Newcastle, cannot do that. Kudos to McClaren for recognising as much and making the most of the attacking players currently at his disposal.
Since switching, Newcastle have breathed new, optimistic air. The 6-2, first win of the season over Norwich was the start, but even in the Tyne-Wear derby the signs were evident. Although the Toon would lose on derby day - for the sixth time in a row no less – they unquestionably dominated the first half of play before Fabricio Coloccini’s now proven incorrect dismissal.
Finally turning that corner...
The 0-0 stalemate with Stoke was further indication that there was light at the end of the previously Mike Ashley induced, smog-filled tunnel, as Newcastle were only denied three points by Stoke’s impressive number one, Jack Butland. To look threatening and create chances was a giant stride in the right direction from the beginning of the season.
Coloccini had his token one great game in every four against Bournemouth at the weekend. Maybe he saves them for the BT cameras, as there was a similarly valiant performance at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign.
Saturday’s victory was more about luck and Bournemouth’s profligacy than Newcastle’s imperious resolve.
It's fantastic Newcastle were able to dig in and come away with the result. It’s probable, if not certain, that they would have lost that game last season. Sorry, John Carver.
Bournemouth had 20 shots compared to Newcastle’s two. The Cherries had 67% possession and out-ran the Magpies as a team by 5km. But, McLaren's men rode their luck, worked hard and came away with what they needed; a formula that will keep them in the Premier League come May 2016.
If the additions arrive that the hierarchy have suggested will in the forthcoming windows, then Newcastle are on the right track. Keeping Perez amid links with Manchester United is part of that, but at least Saturday’s victory has given the Toon army the opportunity to build some much-needed character and show the fans McClaren is making a difference.
Do you think Newcastle have enough to stay up or will they need some heavy investment in January? Leave your comments below!