Saturday 15 October 2016, 15.00, St James’ Park

A first venture south of the border this season for the English Championship clash between Newcastle United and Brentford.

Newcastle United were founded in 1892 by the merger of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End, and have played home matches at St James’ Park ever since. The ground has changed considerably over the years and became an all-seater stadium in the mid-1990s and now has a capacity of 52,404.

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Their most successful period came in the first decade of the twentieth century when they won the top league in England three times and an FA Cup.  Their fourth, and last top league win was in 1927.  They’ve won the FA Cup at total of six times, 1955 being their most recent triumph.  The Fairs Cup, the predecessor to the UEFA Cup was won in 1969.

The club gained promotion in 1992 to the new look Premiership, and finished in third place under manager Kevin Keegan.  They had successive second place finishes in 1995-96 and 1996-97.  They continued to feature in the top league and had a couple of losing cup final appearances but have struggled since the mid-2000s and were relegated in 2009.  An immediate return to the Premiership the following season looked promising, but they have flirted with relegation a few times before succumbing at the end of last season.

As can be expected, a lot of players moved on in the summer after the demotion, but they have signed a raft of players for their assault on promotion.  Defenders Grant Hanley and Ciaran Clark from Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa respectively, full backs DeAndre Yedlin, Achraf Lazaar and Jesus Gamez from Tottenham Hotspur, Palermo and Athletico Madrid, goalkeeper Matz Sels from Gent, midfielders Matt Ritchie from Bournemouth, Mohamed Diame from Hull City and Isaac Hayden from Arsenal and strikers Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace and Daryl Murphy from Ipswich Town.  Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu is on loan from Chelsea.

They persuaded manager Rafael Benitez to stay on, after he had come in towards the end of the previous season, too late to halt the slide.  They currently sit in third place in the Championship, three point off the lead after 11 games.

Brentford were founded in 1889 and play their games at Griffin Park, their home ground since 1904, after a nomadic existence playing at five previous grounds. They have planning permission to build a new 20,000-capacity ground and hope to move in ahead of the start of the 2019-20 season. Their most successful spell came during the 1930s, when they achieved consecutive top six finishes in the old First Division. They’ve reached the quarter final of the FA Cup four times and won the old fourth division three times, the old third twice and the old second division once.

After playing in local leagues, they joined the football league in 1920 and gained promotion up the leagues to the top one in 1935-36, where they finished as the highest London club in 5th place.  The Second World War disrupted their progress and 1946-1947 saw relegation to the Second Division.  By 1966 they had fallen down to the fourth division.  An agreement was made that Queens Park Rangers would take over Griffin Park and Brentford would shut down, but a consortium of local businessmen managed to give a loan to save the club.

A period of belt tightening to repay the loan, to keep the club operational, meant that the playing side suffered and it was a long time before they had a sustained period of success.

The Club did have a successful period in the early 2000s, reaching the FA Cup Fifth Round and League One Play-Off Semi-Finals in successive seasons (2005 and 2006).  The departure of manager Martin Allen in the summer of 2006 changed all that and relegation to League Two followed.  Promotion came again in 2009.

Brentford famously came within a last minute penalty kick of being promoted to the Championship in a match with Doncaster Rovers in April 2013, but hit the bar.  Rovers raced straight up the park from the rebound and scored at the other end so that they were promoted instead.

Promotion did come the following season and they made the promotion play-offs for the Premiership in 2014-15 before losing out to Middleborough in the semi-finals.  A ninth place finish last year meant that they just missed out in the play-offs.

For the new season, Brentford have signed keeper Daniel Bentley from Southend United, centre half John Egan from Gillingham, full backs Rico Henry from Walsall, and on loan from Leicester City, Callum Elder, winger Sullay Kaikai on loan from Crystal Palace and forward Romaine Sawyers from Walsall.

In Brentford’s eleven league games so far, they’ve won five and drawn and lost 3 apiece.  They occupy seventh place.

I was hoping for a decent game to help blow off the cobwebs of a Friday night in Newcastle.

There were 51,885 in attendance.  An impressive crowd and also an impressive 2,778 away fans who had made the long journey north.

The game was 6 minutes old before the first incident of note, Shelvey receiving a pass from Anita and trying a long range effort at the Brentford goal, but his shot was blocked.

Three minutes later, Brentford should have taken the lead.  Sawyers played the ball wide right to the overlapping Colin whose great cross to the far post picked out the run of Hogan, between two defenders, but it was just a little high for him and he couldn’t get his header on target.

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That proved to be a costly miss for the away side as two minutes later Shelvey put an equally good cross into the Brentford box following a free kick and although it was over Gayle’s head, Clark ran in unchallenged behind him to headed into the bottom corner past Bentley.

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In 16 minutes, Shelvey hit a long ball forward into the Brentford box.  The defence didn’t deal with it well and Atsu poked the loose ball in the direction of Gayle.  The striker took a touch to create space for himself and then drilled the ball into the bottom corner to make it two nil.

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The Magpies continued to dominate and in 23 minutes, a clever dummy by Gayle created space for Gouffran whose shot was pushed away by Bentley.  The ball came to Shelvey who missed his kick, before Gouffran fired goalwards.  The ball came off Perez and rolled into the net, but the referee had spotted that Perez had diverted it with his hand and Brentford escaped.

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Atsu was next to try his luck for Newcastle, with his curling shot from the edge of the box in 29 minutes going narrowly over the bar.

Brentford were looking for a way back into the game before the break and The Bees carved out a chance in 35 minutes when Sawyers lofted a ball over the defence for Yennaris.  The powerful shot was well saved by Darlow in the Newcastle goal.

The remainder of the half seemed to be punctuated with some hefty tackling as both sides knew that the next goal would be vital.  The referee seemed a little keen to produce his yellow cards with 4 in the first half in what hadn’t been a dirty game.  Three of these for the home side.

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As Brentford looked for the lifeline they needed, Hogan tried to find Colin in the box in 49 minutes, but the ball was intercepted.  Atsu found Perez who quickly played it forward to Gouffran.  He found Shelvey bursting down the left and his cross found Gayle in the middle for tap in from inside the six-yard box.  Three for the hosts.

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In 52 minutes, Brentford won a corner and Macleod floated a corner to the front post where Sawyers flicked it on and Hogan nodded in from close range.  Were they back in it?

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Three minutes after the goal, Brentford came forward again and won another corner.  It was half cleared to Woods who set up Yennaris on the edge of the box, but his effort was well off target.

Gouffran and Shelvey both had efforts blocked just before the hour mark as Newcastle tried to prevent their fans getting nervous with another goal.

Good play by Atsu in 66 minutes after he had received the ball from Colback gave Perez a chance for the home side, but Bentley saved well.

Newcastle looked increasingly comfortable as the half wore on, although things may have been different if the referee had taken a different view when Hogan went down in the box under the challenge of Hanley.

Shelvey hit a free kick over the bar from the edge of the box in 74 minutes after Perez had been brought down.  Gayle had a chance after Gouffran had fed him in 83 minutes, which Bentley got down well to save.

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In a rare Brentford foray up the pitch Woods shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box in 88 minutes, but it was Newcastle who still looked more likely.

As the clock ticked onto 90 minutes Lazaar saw his shot deflected wide of the Bees goal after being set up by Shelvey.

Perez had two very late chances for Newcastle to make it four, but he failed to hit the target on both occasions.

A comfortable victory in the end for Newcastle who benefitted greatly from the early goals.  They looked very good in spells, but must be concerned at how their defence was cut open twice in the first half by a simple pass.  Shelvey was outstanding for about half an hour in the first half and ran the show.  He still looked a talent as he fell out of the game.  Gouffran and Atsu also impressed.

Hogan looked very lively up front for Brentford and his running and reading of the game would have been a bigger factor with more service.  Woods put in a good shift in midfield.

The game died away in the second half which suited Newcastle, but not a bad game overall.

Full Time: Newcastle United 3 Brentford 1

Admission: £27

Newcastle United: 26 Karl Darlow, 8 Vurnon Anita, 6 Jamaal Lascelles (Hanley 60), 2 Ciaran Clark, 3 Paul Dummett, 30 Christian Atsu (Yedlin 72), 12 Jonjo Shelvey, 4 Jack Colback, 20 Yoan Gouffran (Lazaar 84), 17 Ayoze Pérez, 9 Dwight Gayle. Subs: 5 Grant Hanley, 7 Achraf Lazaar, 14 Isaac Hayden, 15 Mohamed Diamé, 22 DeAndre Yedlin, 28 Matz Sels, 45 Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Brentford: 1 Daniel Bentley, 2 Maxime Colin, 6 Harley Dean, 14 John Egan, 5 Andreas Bjelland (Barbet 75), 8 Nico Yennaris (McCormack 78), 15 Ryan Woods, 20 Josh Clarke, 4 Lewis MacLeod (Kaikai 64), 19 Romaine Sawyers, 9 Scott Hogan. Subs: 7 Sam Saunders, 10 Josh McEachran, 12 Alan McCormack, 16 Jack Bonham, 17 Konstantin Kerschbaumer, 25 Sulley Kaikai, 29 Yoann Barbet.

Referee: Simon Hooper

Programme: £3

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