Brunt equaliser in vain
CHRIS Brunt’s first goal of the season was not enough to prevent the Baggies suffering only their second defeat in ten Barclays Premier League games.
United took a while to get going but shaded an uneventful first half and secured an interval lead through Yoan Gouffran’s 36th-minute header.
The visitors rallied at the break and showed renewed vigour to grab an equaliser through the Baggies skipper on 53.
But the Baggies’ joy lasted less than four minutes as Moussa Sissoko hit a 25-yard wonder strike to seal their fourth successive win.
The only sweetener on an otherwise disappointing evening for the 1,700 hardy Albion fans who made the trip to the North East was seeing Zoltan Gera end a ten-month wait for a return to action from injury two minutes from time.
Billy Jones (hamstring) and Liam Ridgewell (calf) returned from injury to fill the full-back slots in a pre-match boost for the Baggies.
They were two of three changes Steve Clarke made to his line-up as he handed James Morrison his first start in three games.
Alan Pardew made just one switch as Mathieu Debuchy returned at right-back.
Albion - wearing their new red third kit - started well and, after Stephane Sessegnon was fouled by Fabricio Coloccini in the third minute, Tim Krul flung himself to his right to push away Brunt's 30-yard free-kick for a corner.
The Northern Ireland international then delivered a back-post flag-kick that Gareth McAuley headed back across goal. Krul could not hold the ball and Sessegnon was unfortunate to see his goalbound volley blocked by Davide Santon in the six-yard box.
The Geordies' first effort on goal came in the 14th minute when Yohan Cabaye charged forward from midfield but he sent his 25-yard effort well wide of the left-hand post.
The Baggies survived a scare on 19 when Jones did well to somehow divert Loic Remy’s goalbound header from Sissoko’s right-wing cross just wide of the near post.
Following a spell of pressure, United then won a corner. Cabaye swung the ball in from the left and - under pressure from Shola Ameobi – Boaz Myhill could only punch the ball up into the air, giving Yoan Gouffran the chance to nod home from close range to open the scoring on 36.
The visitors were struggling to maintain a sustained period of possession. But seconds before the break, Shane Long won a free-kick in a threatening position 25 yards out and Brunt fired over the bar to close the first half.
Four minutes into the second half, Morrison almost shot his team in the foot when he gifted the ball to Ameobi in the middle of the park. The Newcastle man slid his strike partner Remy into the box and the on-loan QPR hitman managed to squeeze the ball past Gareth McAuley before seeing Myhill come quickly off his line to smother the ball at his feet.
Three minutes later, Long led a swift counter-attack and played the ball out to Morgan Amalfitano, whose cross evaded Long and Sessegnon in the box.
But Clarke’s men were level on 53 when Amalfitano delivered an instant cross from the right that Long beat Williamson to and flicked on for Brunt. The Albion captain kept his cool and took a touch before blazing the ball in off the bar from a tough angle.
Long was then just millimetres away from getting a crucial touch on Jonas Olsson’s header from Amalfitano’s 56th-minute corner.
But the hosts quickly regained the initiative. A minute later, Sissoko struck an unstoppable 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The ball fell nicely for Williamson from Olsson and Ameobi’s clash on the edge of the area on 64 but the Magpies defender volleyed high into the crowd.
Referee Phil Dowd waved away United penalty appeals in the 73rd minute as they claimed Jones handled from Cabaye’s cross after it flicked off Ameobi’s head.
Myhill put Brunt in trouble on 75 and the Northern Ireland international lost the ball to Debuchy, whose fierce 20-yard volley fortunately flew straight into Myhill’s arms.
Clarke made a double switch minutes later as Saido Berahino and Victor Anichebe came on for Brunt and Sessegnon respectively.
Albion kept going until the death and, in the final minute, McAuley recovered a loose ball and swung in a left-wing cross that Anichebe headed just wide of goal.
In stoppage time, Williamson was fortunate not to head into his own net when his clearance flew inches past the right-hand post from Berahino’s curling cross.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini (c), Santon; Sissoko (Cisse 90+5), Tiote, Cabaye, Gouffran; Shola Ameobi, Remy (Anita 83). Subs not used: Elliot (gk), Yanga-Mbiwa, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Ben Arfa.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison, Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Gera 88), Sessegnon (Anichebe 77), Brunt (c) (Berahino 77); Long. Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Popov, Lugano, Yacob.
GOALS: NEWCASTLE – Gouffran (36), Sissoko (57); ALBION – Brunt (53).
BOOKINGS: NEWCASTLE – Tiote (dissent 32). ALBION – Brunt (dissent 28), Mulumbu (foul 89)
REFEREE: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Chris Brunt.