Newcastle United - Norwich City Instant Reaction Review

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Tim Krul of Newcastle looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on March 12, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

In a match that had all the earmarks of being one that could give the Toon Army heartburn, Alan Pardew did something that nobody could have expected at all. Forced departures from his preferred XI dictated a change in personnel, but Pardew took it a level further. Danny Guthrie started in the center of midfield for the injured Cheik Tiote and James Perch started on the left over injured Ryan Taylor and Davide Santon. On a visceral level you would have had to feel pretty good about the lineup on paper (save for Perch... who did perform well at the end of the day.) The lineup itself, however, would not end up being the most unorthodox thing about Pardew's tactics.

Effectively, it seemed like Alan Pardew employed a sort of zone defense with James Perch kind of playing a diagonal zone between left back and holding midfield, Jonas playing his Raylor Technique from earlier in the season and Cabaye playing towards the right of center across to the right wing. Ba and Cisse played up top, predictably, with HBA playing a slightly withdrawn forward position... more forward than a wing. It was like a "behind the striker" position, but wide to the right in a 3-up-top feel.

It was as brilliant as it looked unconventional with Newcastle easily bossing the play in the first half, going up 1-0 from the foot of Wor No.9 Papiss Cisse. Yet another great ball across from Jonas found Cisse all alone and he finished brilliantly into the left upper 90. The lineup looked brilliantly incisive going forward and truly should have been up at least 2 or three goals at the half.

The second half (as is disturbingly typical for the Mags) was distinctly less effective, with Tim Krul needing to be his most awesome self in saving a couple of very good Norwich attempts to keep Newcastle in the lead. A defensive sub (Santon for HBA) followed by a rather defensive-minded attacking sub (Ameobi for Cisse) signaled Pardew's intention to bunker in after 60 minutes and try to preserve the lead and the vital 3 points... leading to a predictably nervy final 20 minutes in which Norwich bossed the play by far. On the plus side, even without HBA at the top, the lineup looked dangerous on the counter; the defense did just enough to hold and the offense just enough to keep Norwich from camping out in Krul's area, and at the end of it all, Newcastle came away from the match with 3 vital points to keep themselves in contention for Europa League Qualification.

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