Despite David Moyes’ protestations during his post-match press conference that he was happy with the first-half performance the way his team came out in the second period suggested otherwise.
The Hammers did well to create the opportunity for Aaron Cresswell’s first goal since November 2019 but every time Newcastle and Allan Saint-Maximim, in particular, attacked the defence looked creaky.
Newcastle scored two goals that whilst not exactly gifts were very avoidable. The otherwise superb Declan Rice was turned inside out by the Frenchman before Callum Wilson got in between Angelo Ogbonna and Craig Dawson far too easily to head home.
The second Magpies goal was again a headed one, this time from Jacob Murphy. The attacker had a free header from a looping cross that should have been attacked by one of the defenders long before it reached his head. As the Hammers bench pointed out Matt Ritchie should never have had so much time to pick him out in the first place, with so little pressure being applied to the ball in a dangerous area of the pitch.
Despite going in at the break 2-1 down, West Ham and Rice in particular came out for the second half and looked a different team. The 22-year-old was playing slightly higher up the pitch and was encouraged on numerous occasions to drive forward with the ball in a way he does not do with England.
The pressure Rice applied to the Newcastle midfield allowed West Ham to win the ball higher up the pitch and get on the attack long before Newcastle could get deep into Hammers territory.
It was not a perfect performance by any means but it was a resounding win against a team who took six points off them last season and a fantastic start to the new campaign.
Bowen not tracking back enough
One aspect of West Ham’s play in the first half was how isolated Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal were in defence.
When Saint-Maximim set up the opener it was not Cresswell or nominal left midfielder Pablo Fornals he left for dead but Declan Rice who was tracking back to provide cover.
Coufal was often one on one or facing an overload with the bench audibly frustrated with Jarrod Bowen for his lack of defensive responsibility, despite one mesmerising run into the box.
Bowen’s work rate certainly improved in the second period, one can only assume this was due to a ticking off at the break and a reminder of what is required to be a Moyes regular.
By the time of his 90th minute substitution, the manager was clearly much happier with the 24-year-old as was the rest of the coaching team who all applauded him off.
For now, Bowen is a sure starter with the Hammers lacking competition in the attacking places but were a new forward or Jesse Lingard to arrive during the remainder of August his place could come under threat.
One way for him to show his worth at West Ham is not just in attack but with the desired work rate particularly in defence that the manager requires from all his team.
Supporters were back. 50,673 of them to be exact, and it was amazing.
From the pre-match singing in the streets to the buzz around the stadium, having the fans back in numbers was fantastic.
The home crowd roared on their team and the stadium was rocking after Newcastle took an early lead but the away fans gave as good as they got.
The second half belonged to West Ham and the travelling hoard were in fine voice. No matter what the score was yesterday having the fans back was the most important part.
For West Ham, after a poor first-half they certainly upped their game and gave the supporters something to sing about.
Monday, August, 23 will see a packed out London Stadium for the visit of Leicester City and if the noise is anything like what it was at St James’ Park the night is set to be a very special one.
Pearce and McKinlay live the game
David Moyes’ assistants Stuart Pearce and Billy McKinlay were sat directly behind the press box and listening to them was a footballing education.
The two men were living every moment of the match. Both were known for their feisty nature as players and they clearly still relish that side of the game urging their team on to get into a tackle and win the ball back.
Their slightly higher vantage point gave the pair a different view to Moyes, Kevin Nolan and Paul Nevin in communication between the two groups constant throughout.
Despite their delight with the three points and the majority of the second-half performance, there should be no doubt the players will receive a lot of feedback, and not all positive, from the coaching team before the match against Leicester.
Even at 4-2 up and the clock running down Pearce and McKinlay were not completely satisfied and were still demanding more from the team. Their playing careers might be long gone but the desire to win has not left either man.
The defending for both Newcastle goals left a lot to be desired and these were not isolated occasions.
In the first-half in particular the Magpies were able to get balls into the box and create goalscoring opportunities, fortunately for the Hammers they did not take them.
Dawson’s superb start to life as a West Ham player from December last year onwards began to falter as the season drew to a close. At St James’ Park in April, he received two needless yellow cards that were a huge contributing factor to his team’s eventual 3-2 loss. Once available following his suspension Dawson was straight back into the starting team alongside Angelo Ogbonna but the pair have not rekindled the form of early in 2021 just yet.
One of Dawson’s main strengths is his heading ability and he was beaten far too easily in the air at St James’ Park, which begs the question if he is not winning headers then what is he contributing?
That might be slightly harsh as he can pick a pass, read the game and make crunching tackles, all of which he did against Newcastle. But if the Hammers continue to leak goals, that is now 18 goals conceded in 12 Premier League matches, Moyes may have to look for alternatives to the Dawson/Ogbonna partnership.
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Issa Diop had a fine pre-season but was replaced by Ogbonna the moment the Italian was deemed fit enough after his hamstring injury.
With Fabian Balbuena’s permanent move and Frederick Alves’ loan to Sunderland that leaves just Jamal Baptiste as a recognised centre-back. The 17-year-old is highly thought of by Moyes who wants him to be a regular member of the first-team training group but he is not seriously threatening for a spot in the starting XI.
Moyes admitted post-match that he would like to add a defender to his ranks before the end of the transfer window and Dawson in particular must be sweating for his spot.
The first-half performance against Newcastle was a clear indication that it is an area the Hammers need to strengthen and they have just two weeks left to do so.