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Newcastle United 4 Blackpool 1

IT is not just on plush green Catalan fields where jinking Argentinians are in vogue.

Wayne Routledge scores against Blackpool
Wayne Routledge scores against Blackpool

IT is not just on plush green Catalan fields where jinking Argentinians are in vogue.

Jonás Gutiérrez may not occupy the same rarefied air as compatriot Lionel Messi – although he yet might come July 11 in Johannesburg – but the irresistible winger served notice of his Premier League intent by orchestrating the effortless destruction of one of the few teams to lay a glove on United this season.

Ian Holloway complained afterwards his Blackpool side looked like sparring partners afraid to tag the champions, but with Jonás Gutiérrez and fellow wing menace Wayne Routledge ducking and weaving like this it was little surprise they failed to land a significant blow on the Championship’s heavyweights.

Gutiérrez, in particular, was devastating.

On a lazy, low-key spring day which offered the perfect excuse for complacency in black and white ranks, he injected urgency and direction to ensure Newcastle United’s title tilt remains on track.

Scoring one goal and supplying another, he was a whirling dervish of attacking energy in arguably his most complete 90 minutes in a Newcastle shirt.

Crucially, and unlike a few of the performances of his debut season in England, that enthusiasm and endeavour was channelled to inflict the maximum damage in the penalty area.

His goal on 12 minutes set Newcastle on the way to an ultimately straightforward victory over a Blackpool side whose impressive travelling support left a bigger mark than the unsatisfactory efforts of their Tangerine-clad players.

Gutiérrez had already worried poor Seamus Coleman with two tasty runs and the Argentine’s capacity to embarrass was playing on his mind when, in conjunction with the equally culpable Alex Baptiste, he made a terrible hash of trying to check the winger’s run.

Gutiérrez twisted past both Blackpool players before cutting in and applying a finish which deflected off Ian Evatt and past the otherwise excellent Matt Gilks.

Out came the Spiderman mask from his shorts, its appearance no longer the novelty it was once was. The accusation consistently levelled at Gutiérrez during a solid first season was that he did not possess the end product to convert his flashy wing contributions.

Slowly but surely, buoyed no doubt by the confidence of being the only potential World Cup winner in the second tier, he is putting that right.

After waiting nearly 18 months to apply a finishing touch to one of his mazy runs, this was his third goal in four weeks.

No-one is saying Premier League defences will fold as readily as Blackpool’s did, but Gutiérrez is undoubtedly returning to the top tier a better player for his Championship sojourn.

He is in good company on that front. and another who has repaired a reputation shattered by relegation was heavily involved in the second goal. Danny Guthrie has brushed the Newcastle midfield with much-needed creativity since moving inside, and it was his classy right foot which extended United’s advantage.

After winning the free-kick on the edge of the Blackpool area, he curled the subsequent dead ball on to the head of Andy Carroll, who glanced past Gilks for his 17th goal of the season.

The young midfielder blotted his copy book slightly a few minutes later by nodding over from point-blank range from a sweet Ryan Taylor cross – but it was only a temporary respite for winded Blackpool.

They were creaking under the pressure of a double assault from Gutiérrez and Routledge, and only untypical profligacy from Peter Løvenkrands and Gilks’ reflexes saved Holloway’s side from a severe beating. A third goal did arrive on 62 minutes, and it was Gutiérrez again to the fore with a spirited surge before supplying Kevin Nolan to apply the coolest of finishes past Gilks.

An injury to Danny Simpson saw Chris Hughton push Gutiérrez to left-back and it was Routledge’s turn to assume the attacking mantle.

He turned on the after burners to leave Stephen Crainey trailing in his wake before arrowing a low right-footed shot past Gilks which lent the scoreine a deservedly lop-sided glint.

That is 29 goals for United in the 13 games Routledge has featured in, and his was undoubtedly a key capture back in January.

Boss Chris Hughton spoke afterwards of a season of “two phases” – the first about making Newcastle difficult to beat before a second period, ushered in by the signing of Routledge, which was about attacking exuberance and imposing themselves on opponents.

The third phase will be even trickier, negotiating a Premier League return which represents at its best a huge step up in class from the Blackpools and Peterboroughs of this world.

However, it is to be hoped when planning for next season Hughton does not lose sight of the offensive principles which have made watching United at St James’ Park since the turn of the year such a joy.

Gutiérrez and Routledge might have to be more careful when Florent Malouda, Theo Walcott or Antonio Valencia are charging at them – but those kind of challenges are the exception rather than the rule in the Premier League.

For now, those are concerns for another day. Reading await tomorrow night, with Newcastle hoping to collect four points from their next two games to provide their public with a St James’ Park coronation to cap a memorable season.

Even a Blackpool consolation – substitute Brett Oremerod stroking home from close range after Steve Harper had pulled off a magnificent save from Stephen Dobbie – could not spoil another perfect day for the home side.

 

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