What did tea lady Kath Cassidy put in Newcastle’s cuppas?

Georginio Wijnaldum
Georginio Wijnaldum

It was a game that went from the sublime to the ridiculous – and back again.

Georginio Wijnaldum’s finishing was certainly sublime.

It’s been a long time – 16 years – since a Newcastle United player had scored four goals at St James’s Park.

The last had been Alan Shearer, and he’d scored five that day.

And £14million summer signing Wijnaldum, on yesterday’s evidence, will follow in Shearer’s footsteps and bring many more goals to Newcastle.

The televised contest might not have caught the imagination across the country before a ball was kicked, but it was a super Sunday on Tyneside.

The televised contest might not have caught the imagination across the country before a ball was kicked, but it was a super Sunday on Tyneside.

However, the defending which twice let Norwich back into the game was ridiculous.

As it was, it didn’t matter.

The club beat Alex Neil’s side 6-2 to climb off the foot of the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby.

And United’s fans, for once, left St James’s Park with smiles on their faces.

The game was almost a throwback to the days of Kevin Keegan and his ‘Entertainers’.

Maybe retiring tea lady Kath Cassidy – who served Keegan during her 52 years in the stadium’s Press room – had put something in the cuppas.

Worries about Newcastle’s defence won’t go away.

But this game proved that United, under Steve McClaren, can score goals as well as concede them.

McClaren, needing more tenacity and aggression in his midfield after the 6-1 capitulation against Manchester City before the international break, opted to hand Cheick Tiote his first Premier League start since the 3-3 draw against Burnley on New Year’s Day.

And it took Tiote just six minutes to get his name taken by referee Anthony Taylor, who booked him for a heavy challenge on Nathan Redmond.

McClaren also discarded the 4-2-3-1 system he had adopted after arriving at St James’s Park and used an adapted 4-4-2 formation.

Newcastle started well. They played with a tenacity and intensity which had been entirely absent in the second half at the Etihad Stadium.

The breakthrough came in the 15th minute when Moussa Sissoko cleverly created himself enough space to slip a ball into the box for Wijnaldum, who beat John Ruddy with a neat finish.

Minutes later, Robbie Brady struck the post from distance with goalkeeper Rob Elliot, in for the injured Tim Krul, well beaten.

And the lead didn’t last, with a slow-to-react Sissoko, so good going forward, partly culpable.

Martin Olsson broke down the left and cross for Dieumerci Mbokani, who stuck a leg out and managed to put the ball past Elliot.

And the afternoon, like so many before it at St James’s Park, was in danger of unravelling, but then it happened again. Sissoko found Wijnaldum in the box, and he put the ball in the net, this time with his head.

Ayoze Perez, overshadowed by Wijnaldum and Sissoko up to then, came to life. After a quick break forward, he took the ball. Perez saw his first attempt blocked, but he beat Ruddy with his second attempt.

The two-goal lead didn’t last, and again, the damage was done with a left-wing cross from Olsson.

Daryl Janmaat, earlier fortunate not to get penalised for pulling Jonny Howson’s shirt in the box, didn’t get close to stopping Olsson’s delivery, which was met at the far post by a Redmond volley.

McClaren replaced the erratic Tiote at the break with Vurnon Anita.

But Newcastle struggled to get hold of the ball in the early part of the second half – and it kept coming back at them.

United, fortunately, settled into the half.

And it was an angled right-wing cross from Sissoko – who had tormented Norwich all afternoon – that set the team back on their way in the 64th minute.

Aleksandar Mitrovic chested down Sissoko’s cross and smashed the ball past Ruddy.

It was a goal Shearer himself would have been proud of.

Another Wijnaldum strike followed two minutes later, this time from a Janmaat cross, and the midfielder capped a phenomenal afternoon with a fourth strike, albeit a deflected one, five minute from the end of normal time.

But there was nothing normal about this game.