Thursday, April 21, 2005

Troubled times

It's official! We are actually BETTER than our FA Cup foes Man Utd!

Forget that piffling 4-1 defeat the Red Bastards inflicted on Sunday - the real benchmark by which to judge is how the two teams fared against the Premiership's basement team Norwich.

Yes, we both lost with Norwich scoring twice, but we scored a goal and Man Utd didn't! By the logic of any reasonable person, we are thus the superior football team.

To assess last night's game more soberly: a patchwork Newcastle side failed in their bid to record only their third away win of the Premiership season against a team that just a fortnight ago looked doomed to relegation.

Of Sunday's defensive line-up, Babayaro and Taylor both missed out through injury, O'Brien and Elliott coming in to take their places, while in midfield N'Zogbia started in the advanced central role he occupied for the second half of the Man Utd match. Incredibly - or perhaps not so incredibly, given our current injury crisis - Butt and Robert kept their places.

There were chances at both ends in the first half. For us, Shearer missed a couple early on, Robert hit a volley straight at Robert Green and Ameobi fired narrowly over just before the break. At the other end Given was forced into a superb save to deny the "Canary Vieira", Damien Francis.

More chances came and went in the second period, and, with 68 minutes on the clock, it was the Canaries' former Coventry midfielder Youssef Safri who smashed home a shot from a preposterous distance to give the home team the lead.

Heads didn't go down, though, and it looked like we had salvaged a point when Kluivert, on for Ameobi, scored a scrappy goal in the final minute - harsh on Norwich, but a draw would have been deserved.

But there was still sufficient injury time - more than four minutes of it, to be precise - for Dean Ashton, Norwich's transfer window signing from Crewe, to get between Carr and Boumsong and nod Helveg's cross past Given.

A cruel blow at the end of an extraordinarily cruel seven days, and one which makes it four consecutive defeats (and five in six since returning from the second Dubai jolly).

And the nightmare isn't over just yet - there's a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon, where a Man Utd team seething after last night's nine man defeat to Everton will be out for our blood for the second time in a week. Anyone like to hazard a bet on a Toon win?

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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