Six and out for North End on a night best forgotten and what worked well at Bournemouth disintegrated before our eyes in the North East.
Lets make no mistake about it, Newcastle are the best side in the Championship – and so they should be.
But North End made it easy for the Magpies in front of an incredible 49,042 inside St James Park of which 1,442 were feeling humiliated.
An under-strength side coupled with a stupid sending off and North End were lucky to only be two down at the break.
Even with the introduction of some regular first teamers at half-time it went from bad to worse for North End and our record defeat (0-7) could easily have been smashed.
Two against the post, one against the bar, an incredible miss and about four shots charged down was just about the total of the home side’s dominance as Preston wilted under a barrage from the classy Tyneside outfit.
North End started with a 3-5-2 formation similar to the Bournemouth game with Spurr and Humphrey playing as the wing backs.
The manager had made nine changes from the win at Norwich and we were soon on the back foot against a pacy home attack.
The Geordies hit the post early on and less than twenty minutes in they were ahead when a free kick from Ritchie found Mitrovic at the back post and the striker made no mistake with an unchallenged free header.
Thing became more difficult when Browne was shown a straight red for an elbow on Colback. It was stupid by Browne who should known better and from that moment on the game was lost for North End with virtually no outlet up front as we were forced to go 4-4-1.
Diame struck a sweet opportunist shot before half-time as North End looked lost and bemused on a very difficult evening.
Grayson brought on Gallagher and Clarke at half-time but all to no avail as Newcastle were awarded a dubious penalty early in the second half and Ritchie made no mistake from the spot. Mitrovic then added insult to injury by cutting in from the left hand side and dummying several North End defenders before smashing the ball past the helpless Lindegaard.
I was rather hoping that Newcastle would declare at this point and that we would actually have an attempt on goal.
Our moment came when we had a couple of corners and Paul Huntington’s well-placed header was saved from the second Gallagher corner. The home side were not finished though and Diame made it five in the closing stages with a well struck shot past a motionless Lindegaard and Perez finished off the evening when he slotted home for number six.
So a night to remember on Tyneside or one to forget if you were wearing the White and Blue of North End. The wisdom regarding the manager’s team selection will no doubt be the subject of much debate over the next few days but a positive result on Saturday will go a long way towards justifying his decisions.
A defeat, however, and I am sure people will say well why didn’t he go for it when he had the chance.
In all honesty, the way Newcastle played I think we could have put 22 out there and still lost and although it will be a different game come Saturday, no one should underestimate just how strong a squad Rafa Benitez has at his disposal and what a tough task we will have to get something positive.
We shall see.