A first win in 63 years at promotion favourites Newcastle United made it two wins from as many matches to start the Sky Bet Championship season for David Wagner’s Terriers!
A well-executed game plan – a shift from the usual from the German Head Coach – paid dividends at a packed St. James’ Park, with a goal in each half from Nahki Wells and Jack Payne securing the three points despite Dwight Gayle’s second-half penalty between.
Opposed to the high-pressing game we normally see from Wagner’s men, the Terriers showcased the defensive block they’d been practising all pre-season at St. James’ Park.
Allowing the hosts to have the ball until halfway, the Terriers then engaged the Magpies on halfway, with striker Elias Kachunga joined by Nahki Wells in attack to allow him to keep an eye on playmaker Jonjo Shelvey.
Despite this, the plan could have been immediately undone inside three minutes. Mark Hudson – excellent on his 450th career appearance – and Danny Ward left a diagonal ball from Daryl Janmaat to each other, allowing Gayle to nip in. Fortunately, he headed the chance wide of target.
In possession, the Terriers looked to use their pace in attack to counter the home side; the first evidence of which came two minutes later. Kachunga forced an error from Lascelles by the corner flag and found his Bermudian strike partner, who fired over on his left foot.
Kache deserved a goal for his energetic, disciplined performance and went very close in the 13th minute. After being played down the left by Aaron Mooy, he cut infield and drilled a low shot against the outside of the near post from 20 yards.
Shelvey’s set piece ability caused an issue on 17 minutes when he found centre back Chancel Mbemba at the back post, whose header forced a good diving save from Danny Ward. From the resulting corner, midfielder Isaac Hayden headed over.
Ward was at it again on 22 minutes, getting down well to his left side to save Shelvey’s low free kick from the edge of the D on the Town penalty area.
Town responded by compressing the space on the pitch for the hosts, which frustrated the large home support as the half progressed.
At the other end, Town threatened. Joe Lolley drove high and wide from a good position after showing great pace and skill to burst past an opponent.
Then, in the first minute of added time at the end of the 45, Town struck. Jonathan Hogg had an excellent game and won possession on halfway before finding Rajiv van La Parra on the left. The winger advanced and took his time as Chris Löwe overlapped before hitting a delicate cross into the box, where Town’s Player of the Year Wells swept the ball past the stationary goalkeeper and inside the near post.
Newcastle improved in the second half, opting to go straight to the flanks instead of the congested centre of the pitch. However, it was Lolley with the first proper shot; he tested Sels in the 51st minutes after collecting a smartly taken quick throw-in from Kachunga on the right.
Unfortunately, the hosts won a penalty on the hour mark – with Hudson unfortunate. Van La Parra’s slip allowed right back Janmaat to cross and in competing for the ball with Mo Diame, the ball clearly bounced up and struck Hudson’s hand. Whether the skipper knew anything about it was very debatable, but the referee gave the spot-kick anyway.
Ward almost became the hero after diving right to stop Dwight Gayle’s penalty – but the rebound fell straight to the striker, who nodded into the empty net.
Town responded as Löwe – who arguably had his best game for Town – shot over from range after a good move, but there was another let-off with 20 minutes left when sub Matt Ritchie headed wide from Paul Dummett’s cross after losing marker van La Parra at the back post.
The centre half pairing of Christopher Schindler and Hudson stood impressively firm as the minutes ticked down – before Town broke to score the winner with seven minutes left.
By this stage, Wagner had introduced Kasey Palmer and Jack Payne, with the disciplined Kachunga moved to the left flank to stop the marauding Janmaat getting forward. Instead it was the Chelsea youngster who won a 50-50 with centre back Mbemba on the left before driving infield and setting Southend Player of the Year Payne clear.
Having missed a couple of good opportunities at Shrewsbury in midweek, Payne made no mistake. After initially looking to switch to his favoured left, Jack instead stormed into the penalty area before driving an unstoppable shot past the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner to spark jubilant scenes on the touchline.
Newcastle failed to properly test Ward in the four minutes of added time, allowing for some fantastic celebrations between the 3,200 away fans and players on the pitch after the final whistle.
Town’s team (4-4-2):
Danny Ward; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Rajiv van La Parra (Sean Scannell, 71), Jonathan Hogg, Aaron Mooy, Joe Lolley (Jack Payne, 81); Nahki Wells (Kasey Palmer, 64), Elias Kachunga
Joel Coleman, Martin Cranie, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Michael Hefele