Sharpshooter Cabaye keeps Newcastle in touch with big guns
Newcastle United 1 Wigan Athletic 0
St James' Park
Sunday 23 October 2011
For most of the 90 minutes Newcastle United looked far from invincible against a tidy Wigan Athletic side seeking an end to a five-game losing streak and a first ever win on Tyneside. But then, with nine minutes remaining, Yohan Cabaye dispatched the winner.
A first-time finish from the right edge of the penalty area, it was the French midfielder's first goal for Newcastle and it kept the Magpies flying high in fourth place, level on points with Chelsea and unbeaten in 11 League and cup matches this season.
It sent the biggest Newcastle crowd of the season home happy, chanting the manager's name for the first time with a chorus of "Alan Pardew's black and white army".
"I'm very pleased with the result," a relieved Pardew said. "The goal was special. It was worth the admission fee just for that."
As much as last Sunday's contest against Spurs, when Pardew's side twice came from behind to draw 2-2, it was a litmus test for the new Newcastle. Could they cope with being overwhelming favourites, and with the tension if they struggled to roll over the opposition?
They were given an early test of nerves by a Wigan side playing with freedom and a "nothing to lose" look about them. Five minutes in, the home defence parted like a black and white sea and Victor Moses smacked a left foot volley that would have furnished the perceived makeweights with the lead had Tim Krul not produced a reflex save out of the top-drawer.
Ten minutes later the Magpies were in a flap again. Fabricio Coloccini failed to cut out a long punt up field from Ali Al Habsi and David Jones fed the loose ball through for Hugo Rodallega, who steered a low drive narrowly wide from the right edge of the box. The natives were increasingly restless and so was Pardew, stationed arms-folded on the apron of the pitch with a look of concern set upon his face.
His Magpies were crowded out by Wigan's central midfield trio and stretched out wide by Moses and Albert Crusat. It took them 33 minutes to muster a threat of their own and Wigan could hardly believe their good fortune as the unmarked Leon Best met a cross from the left by Jonas Gutierrez with a downward header that allowed Al Habsi to palm it clear on the rise.
At half-time Best made way for Hatem Ben Arfa. The Frenchman schemed away from a withdrawn position, leaving Demba Ba in not so splendid isolation up front. Still, a cross from deep on the left by Ryan Taylor found Ba unmarked on the six-yard line four minutes after the restart, but the Senegal striker's downward header was gathered by Al Habsi.
Wigan continued to look the more comfortable side and came close to striking on the break in the 65th minute. A long ball from Maynor Figueroa found Rodallega on the right edge of the Newcastle box and the big Colombian trapped the ball with his chest before smacking a right foot drive into the side netting.
It signalled the arrival of Shola Ameobi from the bench but it was only after the introduction of Newcastle's third substitute that they managed to break through. Sylvan Marveaux – a 77th minute replacement for the ineffectual Gabriel Obertan – teed up the winner. A free transfer signing from Rennes, the French Under-21 winger chested down a ball fromthe left by Ryan Taylor and rolled it back for Cabaye to pull the trigger.
Pardew said: "Yohan is a really class player and he brings an elegance to us that everybody really appreciates. He's hit a real cracker."
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor; Obertan (Marveaux, 77), Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Best (Ben Arfa, h-t), Ba (Shola Ameobi, 68).
Wigan (4-5-1): Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figuera; Moses, Jones, Diame, Watson (McArthur, 82), Crusat (Sammon, 82); Rodellega.
Referee Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the match Victor Moses (Wigan).
Match rating 5/10.
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