Eddie Howe’s big gamble paid off but worrying Newcastle United stat emerges
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All eyes at the City Ground ahead of the game were on the team sheets as Eddie Howe sprung a couple of surprises ahead of the game. Anthony Gordon, who left St James’ Park last week on crutches after injuring his ankle, was fit to start despite Howe admitting pre-match that the winger had barely trained this week.
The other huge call Howe made was the decision to stick with Dan Burn at left-back after he endured a tough afternoon against Chiedozie Ogbene during the draw with the Hatters. Burn has been Howe’s preferred option on the left of defence since the beginning of last season, but Tino Livramento’s arrival in summer and his start to life on Tyneside had led to calls that maybe the former Southampton man would get the nod ahead of Burn.
Instead, Howe opted to stick with his trusted option against a Forest attack, minus Chris Wood, that enjoyed great successes against the Magpies a little over six weeks ago. It took 17 minutes of action, by then the Magpies had already put themselves one goal to the good, before Anthony Elanga was able to show Burn a clean pair of heels but Martin Dubravka did well to deny the former Manchester United man.
However, Newcastle failed to learn from this and just ten minutes later the hosts were level through Elanga who had found himself some space between Burn and Sven Botman to poke home past an on rushing Dubravka. It was a moment they had seen time and time again in the reverse fixture but they failed to heed the warning signs and were punished for it.
That goal was the fourth Newcastle have conceded from ‘fast breaks’ this season, only Crystal Palace and Manchester United have conceded more in the Premier League. It was also the eighth goal Forest have scored from a ‘fast break’ - the most of any teams in the division.
Last week, Howe defended his decision to play Burn - highlighting his impact at set-pieces as a major strength that Newcastle needed to take advantage of. Admittedly, they did score two goals from set-pieces during the first 45 minutes of play on Saturday - but Burn was not directly involved in any of these.
Newcastle were able to weather the storm and despite a few nervy moments in the second period, came away with all three points after shifting to a back five to nullify Forest’s threats in attacking areas. Livramento’s introduction, much like at Villa Park, helped to repel an exciting Forest attacking line up and the hosts struggled to break down the defence following his introduction.
Ultimately it was a gamble that paid off for Howe as Newcastle earned successive Premier League away wins and their fourth on the spin on their travels - the first time that has happened since their campaign in the Championship in 2016/17. Saturday’s win means Newcastle United moved up to 7th in the league at the end of play and, despite a rocky end to 2023 and beginning to 2024, have now taken seven points from their last three outings.