It'd have been a travesty had we not won that, says Clark
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Goalscorer Ciaran Clark felt it would have been a “travesty” had Newcastle United not held out to beat West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Magpies looked to be cruising after opening up a three-goal lead by the hour mark, one initiated by Clark himself, who headed home with 16 minutes on the clock after West Ham failed to deal with Jonjo Shelvey’s free kick.
Federico Fernández swiftly nodded in a second for Newcastle, before Shelvey seemingly put the outcome beyond doubt with a superb set-piece from 25 yards.
However, the Hammers rallied going into the final 20 minutes of the game. They still had plenty to do after defender Fabián Balbuena bundled in from close range, but an unlikely comeback looked to be well and truly on after Robert Snodgrass volleyed past Martin Dúbravka in the final minute of normal time.
Having squandered a string of opportunities either side of the break, it was an unnecessarily nervy finale for Newcastle to have to withstand, and Clark dared not think about how they would have felt had they ended up blowing their advantage completely.
“100 per cent. We would have been devastated if we didn’t take all three there,” he told nufc.co.uk after the game. “The first half, we created all of the chances. Maybe we were a little bit unlucky with a couple of them but on another day we would have been four or five up at half time and the game would have been over. We came out and got the third goal – a great goal by Jonjo – and that obviously proved to be really important.
“It was a bit relentless towards the end. The balls were coming into the box, we couldn’t get up the pitch or get out of our half at all. We made it difficult for ourselves and nearly threw it away. They got the two goals and those last four or five minutes were definitely nervy.”
Clark – who has now started four games on the spin – felt United displayed a collective spirit to see out those remaining exchanges, having exhibited a totally different style of play during the opening 45 minutes.
That they tore through the Hammers’ backline with such regularity came as no shock to the Irish international, who paid tribute to the efforts of the Magpies’ coaching staff in the week leading up to the clash.
“I don’t think I’m surprised – it was something we worked on during the week in training. The coaches explained to us the way they wanted us to play and encouraged us that, if we played that way, we would get in and get some chances,” he said. “As I say, on another day we could have been four or five up and the game would have been over.
“We made it hard but we stuck together. It’s about trying to stay focussed. It’s hard when you get caught up in the emotion of the game and the ball keeps coming in and you can’t get out of your box; you know it’s going to go wide and come straight back in again. They put us under a lot of pressure but it’s about trying to stay focussed and stay communicating. You have to do that throughout the game, but especially those last five minutes. That’s all it is. The way we played in the first half, it wasn’t the time for that; it was about trying to fight for it and holding on. I think we showed a lot of different ways we can play in that one game.
“We’re all pleased. Obviously we’re disappointed with the way we let it go at the end but at the end of the day we wanted to come down here and get three points, and that’s what we’ve done.”
"We would have been devastated if we didn’t take all three there."