After last week’s convincing 2-0 victory of Sheffield Uni at Cochrane Park, it was time for Newcastle’s first team to make the first of two trips to Liverpool this season to face Liverpool Hope. With the Uni’s early season title rivals playing each other in, Leeds Beckett and Liverpool John Moore’s, the Royals sensed an opportunity to make up the two-point deficit.
On what was a very compact pitch, there was seemingly not enough grass for the Uni to dominate possession from the back as they like to. The game started with a frantic to and fro. Early suggestions were that the Royals would have to adapt their normal style of play in favour of a more direct approach.
And adapt they did. 10 minutes into the game, debutant keeper Franklin sent a goal kick deep into the opposition half, and after Theo Pizzaro leapt well to flick the ball onto an on-rushing Thomas, the striker outmuscled the full back and comfortably slotted home.
The nerve settling opener seemed to have the opposite effect as a period of Hope pressure intertwined with a Newcastle desire to make things difficult for themselves ensued. It did not take long for the hosts efforts to bare fruition as the Hope number nine was tripped in a challenge that seemingly took place outside the box. However, the hosts were awarded a contentious penalty. Newcastle will feel justice was served as the same number nine was too blaze over the bar.
The miss was costly for Hope as it took a matter of minutes for Newcastle to double their lead. After good work in the channel from Yiadom, the striker’s cross was blocked into the path of the on-rushing Horn, and the club president smashed the ball through the scrambling legs of the Hope keeper. And it didn’t take long for Yiadom to get the goal his performance deserved as he rounded off a sweeping counter attack that found the striker after great work from Walden and Thomas. This took Newcastle to a three-goal lead going into the break.
After a dominant first half display, Newcastle seemed sure of bringing home the three points. To the credit of the hosts they weren’t intent on letting that happen without a fight. As the Royals struggled to find the space required to get their passing game going, Hope’s direct approach paid dividends, converting from a corner to make it 3-1.
It didn’t take long for Newcastle’s nerves to be settled. Still looking dangerous on the attack, the Royals broke down the right-hand side. As the day’s danger man Yiadom ran along the edge of the box, the striker put to bed any hopes of a comeback with one swing of his left foot.
The hosts did manage to find another goal as the Uni switched off but that was as much as the hosts would create. There was the expected final flurry of pressure from Hope but it was the experienced Newcastle back-line that saw the Royals to an important victory.
A well-deserved three points for Newcastle, the significance of which became apparent in the changing rooms as the Royals learned of the draw between Beckett and John Moore’s. Newcastle find themselves joint top with last year’s title challengers John Moore’s, as both teams have amassed 11 points at the halfway point in the season.
Man Of The Match: Matthew Konadu-Yiadom