The Brighton & Hove Albion Seagulls came to Tyneside riding a 6-month regular season win streak. Limited at the striker position Rafa Benitez trotted out a 4-1-4-1 formation in an effort to slow down a dangerous Seagulls attack. At the end of the day a header from captain Jamaal Lascelles, and a gem of a free kick bender from JonJo Shelvey gave Newcastle a third straight winning heading into the international break.
The Chris Hughton led team, who along with Newcastle rank as one of three teams expected to see promotion, came into the match equally inspired, looking to show the 49k plus fans at St. James’ Park they were not intimidated by the atmosphere.
Newcastle were the aggressor early, with Ayoze Perez missing on early opportunities. In the 14th minute Matt Ritchie delivered a free kick that found Lascelles head, and Jamaal delivered it past David Stockdale. It was defensive failure by Brighton as their failure to hold the line left Lascelles with a copious amount of space to work in.
Shelvey would finish the scoring in the second half. Soon after Seagulls’ Sam Baldock was sent off for receiving his second yellow on a foolish hit on Matz Sels the Newcastle midfielder struck a gorgeous ball around the Albion wall, and just inside the right bar. Stockdale could only watch.
While not getting their names on the score sheet, the likes of Yoan Gouffran, Vernon Anita and Ritchie were creating problems in the Seagulls third.
Sels answered his critics with his best performance of the young season. A first half stop from Baldock’s foot, and an even stronger right handed denial of a second half Beram Kayal shot from near point blank range should settle some of the restlessness.
Newcastle transfer window target Anthony Knockaert was every bit of what was advertised, constantly demanding attention, creating opportunities. He barely missed tying the match with a short range second half strike.
Benitez somewhat downplayed the significance of the victory, but noted the team did well in several areas. He said the choice to sit Karl Darlow was not an easy one based on his Cup performance earlier in the week, but Sels delivered on the confidence Benitez showed in starting him.
Match day program cover boy DeAndre Yedlin was a late game substitution, a move that was unnecessary from a tactical standpoint, but one that allowed the fans to welcome him to the club. While that is surely a debatable opinion, it does highlight the quality of opponent Newcastle battled.
Shelvey’s execution at the offensive end is something the Geordie faithful have been waiting for since his signing. Yet it might be the rebirth of Gouffran that elevates not only the play on the field, but spirit of those in the stands. The Chronicle’s Chris Waugh considered Gouffran’s play equal to, if not better, than that of Knockaert.
Newcastle presently sit fourth in the table, and will next face a Derby County squad hovering just above the drop zone. The date for that match is September 10th.