When Newcastle United beat Norwich 4-3 back in September, it was hat-trick scorer Dwight Gayle who took the majority of the plaudits yet The Magpies started slowly and were 3-1 down after 69 minutes after missing aerial chances fizzed into the box notably crosses by Paul Dummett that would have been meat and drink to Aleksandar Mitrovic yet were wasted by Gayle and Matt Ritchie.
Only when the game looked lost & Rafa Benitez threw on his big no. 45 in the 71st minute as substitute for Mo Diame did Newcastle rally and come alive before finally forcing victory deep into injury time. If anything, it was the combination of Mitrovic and Gayle up front together than sealed victory in the last 25 minutes & rocked Norwich.
Norwich boss Alex Neil must be sick of trips to St. James’ Park after seeing his Canaries side smashed 6-2 against Steve McClaren’s Magpies in late 2015 only to be followed by an even more galling defeat after holding a two-goal lead this season though he remained upbeat about his side’s chances against the title leaders tomorrow:
“Without doubt we will be a match for them. We beat them the last time they came here in the Premier League. We were 3-1 up at their place and deservedly so.
“We know it is going to be tough because they are a right good side, but so are we and it is who plays well on the day.”
As he mentioned above, there was a measure of revenge for the 6-2 slaughter for Neil, whose Yellow and Greens beat Newcastle 3-2 in early April with the help of referee Mike Dean, who missed a late Norwich handball in the lead-up to the winning goal athough he did award a rare United penalty that Mitrovic converted.
The loss of star Robbie Brady, who joined Burnley in the January transfer window & tormented Newcastle at St. James’ Park winning a penalty from Yoan Gouffran will affect Norwich against the best team in The Championship.
Can Mitrovic and Gayle Be Like Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand for Newcastle?
In the mid-1990s, Newcastle fans were blessed to be supporting a team with perhaps the best strike partnership ever seen in English football scoring 49 goals between them in the 1996-7 season that proved their only one together in the famous black and white shirt.
As well as famously bagging a goal each in the following thrashing of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United side, they notched two each when The Magpies obliterated Spurs 7-1 in Keegan’s penultimate match as Newcastle manager and were both on the same scoresheet a total of 10 times that year.
While Kevin Keegan was delighted to partner Shearer and Ferdinand up front together and even throw in Tino Asprilla as a third striker, Rafa Benitez is more cautious and his preferred formation contains only one man up front.
Dwight Gayle has carried the striking load for much of the season leading the line superbly notching 20 goals in the process yet as he is just coming back from injury, starting the in-form Mitrovic might be advantageous to The Magpies at Carrow Road before bringing Gayle on to finish the job if necessary.
Mitrovic has 6 goals to his name after being in and out the side yet has surely earned a run in the starting XI after another winner at Molineux on Saturday night. With Mitrovic in the side, Newcastle have recorded both their biggest home win and away wins – 6-0 against Preston at St. James’ Park in The League Cup and 6-0 at QPR in The EFL Championship – and may require the same Mitro’s on fire-power tomorrow.
If Gayle starts or play any part tomorrow, Benitez would be wise to remember the duo’s combined impact vs Norwich at home when two Mitrovic knock-downs from Shelvey passes were eventually converted for the win.
Referees Must Protect Mitrovic
Rafa Benitez called for more protection for Jonjo Shelvey and Mitrovic from match officials believing two of his top players are being targeted by the opposition and actively wound up in an attempt to get them sent off. Against Derby for example, the Serbian front man was being pushed from behind almost every time the ball was there to be won in the air without any recourse or redress from the referee and it was a similar story on Saturday night.
At Molineux against Wolves, Mitrovic was again targeted by away fans, opposition players and match officials alike yet emerged defiant with the match-winning goal. Last season as well, Mitrovic’s reputation preceded him and he won very little favour despite the total unfair attention and treatment by opposition players.
Aleksandar Mitrovic remains a Champions League goalcorer with a 40% goal-scoring record to his name, the same ratio at the highest level of European club competition as United great Alan Shearer, who scored 8 goals in 20 games for The Magpies. As this video shows Mitrovic as the real deal against Borussia Dortmund or perhaps he just likes playing against teams in yellow – either way his should be the first name on the team-sheet tomorrow night and the last to be taken off it if Newcastle want to win.