Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Feeling the strain

Newcastle 0 – 2 Manchester United

Hope sprung eternal at St James's Park for 45 minutes on Sunday, as a starting line up boosted by the returns from injury of Dyer and Emre and featuring new signing Albert Luque matched Man Utd for effort, work rate and creativity and showed there are positive signs for us to build a season upon.

Unfortunately, the departure of both Emre and Dyer to recurrences of their respective hamstring injuries and the loss of Bowyer in the second half to a suspected groin strain left us struggling to spark in the second half, and it was no surprise that we proceeded to concede two goals and once again fail to score.

The goals themselves both resulted from uncharacteristic errors by Jean-Alain Boumsong, who had arguably his worst ever game in a black and white shirt, firstly allowing a hopeful punt forward to bounce in front of him, and let Rooney in to calmly slot the ball past Given at the Leazes end, and later on Rooney was able to pull the ball back across the face of the goal, and with Boumsong missing the clearance, Van Horse Face notched a second.

The first half had started brightly, with new signing Albert Luque managing to find space in front of goal several times. Unfortunately the only time he really had the opportunity to slot the ball home he was comfortably offside, and otherwise his shots left Van der Sar untroubled. Nonetheless, there were clear signs of promise from the new man – who looked good on the ball, and skillful enough to get in behind defences when required. Provided he can get a couple of early goals under his belt to help him settle he should prove a real asset for the side.

Elsewhere, Parker again showed his class, and his strong display in front of Sven Goran Eriksson was surprisingly not enough to displace current club colleague Jermaine Jenas in the England squad. Nonetheless, a few more games like that and it must surely only be a matter of time before his name is being mentioned in connection with the England squad for 2006.

The loss of both Emre and Dyer to recurrences of their injuries is something of a worry, and while both passed fitness tests, it seems slightly strange that both subsequently broke down – either the fitness tests aren't rigid enough, or perhaps Souness should only have gambled on one of them. That said, if they passed the test, he’d argue there was no gamble at the time. Either way, their departures and the later loss of Bowyer left our midfield struggling valiantly but ultimately futilely against the visitors.

I still feel that if we could only field a fit team, and have a bit of luck in front of goal then we could have a decent season - the problem being that the longer the goal drought continues the bigger the challenge we'll have to mount a challenge for European football next season. Hopefully the break for the internationals will allow us to regroup and refocus for the challenges ahead.

Other reports: BBC, NUFC.com


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