NEWCASTLE, May 24- Cancer survivor Jonas Gutierrez scored one goal and made the other as Newcastle United secured their Premier League status with a 2-0 win over West Ham United on Sunday.
Gutierrez crossed for Moussa Sissoko to open the scoring early in the second half and then scored himself as a traumatic campaign ended with a huge sigh of relief at St James’ Park.
But it was a nervy performance that illustrated why unpopular owner Mike Ashley will need to honour his pre-match pledge, in a rare television interview, to bolster his squad during the close season.
Hull’s failure to beat Manchester United lessened the importance of the win, as it meant Newcastle would have been safe in any case.
But Gutierrez’s 85th-minute goal was the stuff of fairytales, since it came from a player who spent 17 months battling testicular cancer and who was almost certainly playing his final game for the club.
Newcastle could hardly have asked for more accommodating visitors than West Ham, who had been assured of a mid-table finish for several weeks and who arrived in the northeast without a win in 11 away games.
But manager Sam Allardyce, told minutes after the game that he will not be given a new contract, prepared his side properly nonetheless and they proved to be stubborn opposition for more than half the game.
There were a few anxious moments for Newcastle coach John Carver, who may also be looking for a new job soon, and who sprang a surprise by leaving out Ayoze Perez, one of his few successes this season.
Carver went for the more powerful presence of Emmanuel Riviere, a disappointment since he signed from Monaco last year.
It represented a gamble by Carver, but it almost paid off within 53 seconds of the start when Riviere should have capitalised on an opportunity created by Sissoko.
– Riviere miss –
Instead, he pulled his shot across the face of the goal from a sharp angle.
Riviere was also responsible for Newcastle’s next threat with an overhead kick that flashed wide, while Daryl Janmaat went even closer with an 18th-minute effort.
But West Ham had demonstrated that they would not make life easy for Newcastle and even the home fans’ applause for Kevin Nolan, the West Ham captain who once played for the club, failed to soften their approach.
West Ham might have been awarded a penalty after only two minutes when Enner Valencia went down under a challenge from Mike Williamson, who was recalled after serving a two-match ban for a red card at Leicester City that Carver had accused him of earning deliberately.
And Allardyce’s side created the best opportunity of the opening half when Stewart Downing found space behind the centre-backs and forced goalkeeper Tim Krul to block his close-range shot.
Downing’s effort reflected how West Ham were growing in confidence as they retained possession with an ease that started to frustrate the Newcastle crowd.
That frustration only increased when Janmaat headed high over the bar at the conclusion of a quick break engineered by Gutierrez and Jack Colback.
The anxiety levels within the stadium rose still further when Riviere somehow failed to turn in a 51st-minute cross from Janmaat with the goal at his mercy.
But they went ahead just three minutes later when Sissoko rose brilliantly to head home a left-wing cross from Gutierrez, who made the game safe with a deflected strike five minutes from time.
As St James’ Park rejoiced, West Ham’s challenge faded, their fans turning on Allardyce with a prescient chant of: “You’re getting sacked in the morning!”