Boxing Day pantomime comes to St James' Park

Posted by Marc Duffy

Stu Forster/Getty ImagesLoic Remy scored five goals in his first five games for Newcastle.

Britain has a long standing tradition of pantomime at Christmas. For those of you who don't know, pantomimes are seasonal shows containing heroes, villains, a panto dame, slapstick comedy and song.

Newcastle's 5-1 win over Stoke at St James' Park on Boxing Day was as close to pantomime as you are ever likely to see on a football pitch.

- Report: Newcastle 5-1 Stoke City
- Tyler: Boxing Day talking points

From Newcastle's perspective, Stoke's Glenn Whelan filled the role of comedy villain. His team were the better side and in control of the game at 1-0.

Oussama Assaidi had given Stoke the lead with a great goal on 29 minutes. A poor headed clearance from Mike Williamson ended up at the feet of Assaidi via Charlie Adam and the on-loan Liverpool man cut inside of Matthieu Debuchy and curled the ball into the top corner.

Up until that point Stoke were looking good as their traditional 'punt-it-long' tactics were replaced with short, quick passes playing through the midfield. Newcastle were struggling. A lineup that on paper looked to be quite attacking was actually a negative 4-5-1, and time and time again Loic Remy found himself running wide with the ball only to look up and see that there was no attacking support arriving.

Then the pantomime villain took his part in the game. Seconds after a booking for fouling Moussa Sissoko, Whelan was squaring up to Yohan Cabaye. The crowd whistled and jeered and the supporters next to me began talking about how he appeared to have "lost the plot".

Three minutes later, Whelan was given a second yellow for a foul on Cabaye and the game's pantomime dame, Mark Hughes, entered the show from stage left. Hughes went mad. Referee Martin Atkinson warned him to calm down, but he carried on and was sent to the stands but not before he threw his coat onto the pitch in a tantrum before storming down the tunnel with a tear in his eye. The home crowd were jeering and laughing.

Before Hughes could even reach his seat on the naughty step, his team were down to nine men.

Remy broke clear of the defence and Marc Wilson was adjudged to have fouled him. He was given a straight red card just before Remy stood up and watched his penalty saved by another of the day’s villains, former Sunderland keeper Thomas Sorensen.

Referee Atkinson was certainly the villain of the piece for the few hundred Stoke fans who had made the journey north and he missed a Williamson handball just before Remy pulled Newcastle level.

From that point on, Newcastle were rampant. Shola Ameobi came on for Vurnon Anita at halftime as Alan Pardew looked to introduce a more attacking layout.

Yoan Gouffran gave Newcastle the lead three minutes into the second half and Hatem Ben Arfa began to run riot. The Stoke defenders could not contain him, and although he didn't score, he certainly contributed to the entertainment.

Remy made it 3-1 from a Santon cross on 56, then on 58 Ben Arfa beat half of the Stoke team before crashing his shot off the crossbar. Cabaye made it 4-1 and Gouffran should have made it five, missing a header from inside of the six yard box.

The Gallowgate End called for Papiss Cisse, a man desperately in need of a goal, and Pardew obliged. Ben Arfa was fouled for a second penalty of the day and Cabaye lined it up. The crowd sang Cisse's name and Cabaye handed him the ball and gave him a hug. Cisse smashed the ball past Sorensen for Newcastle's fifth.

Newcastle kept on driving forward with substitute Massadio Haidara finding space wide left but they could not add to their tally.

So all in all Newcastle enjoyed some luck but were great to watch against the nine men.

Twenty-two points from the last 27 is a fantastic return and Newcastle currently sit just outside of the European places with Arsenal heading to Tyneside on Monday.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy


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