Monday, May 14, 2007

The final curtain

Watford 1 - 1 Newcastle Utd

Thank fuck for that.

At last, our painfully disspiriting and disillusioning season is over. It is no more. The final curtains closed on it after yesterday's draw with Watford, and we gladly waved it off into the flames. With no early start in the Intertoto required, it means a blessed three match-free months - months during which the club has somehow to be brought back from the dead, resuscitated and revived.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done - not least because being cremated alive would be too good a fate for some of those who've turned out in black and white this season.

The only reason we avoided defeat in our final match, against already-relegated opposition, was down to Watford midfielder Lee Williamson's rush-of-blood-to-the-head finishing. True, he nearly grabbed a winner with a long-range volley that the returning Shay Given couldn't have reached, but he also blazed a more presentable chance over when team-mates were better placed to score.

Nigel Pearson had given starts to Shola Ameobi and Matty Pattison, but his hand was essentially forced by the absence of Obafemi Martins (who had diagnosed himself injured) and Scott Parker's hernia operation (the fourteenth time a Newcastle player has gone under the knife this season).

Watford looked the livelier from the start without testing Given, so it was somewhat against the run of play that Kieron Dyer broke the deadlock, poking the ball past a prostrate Ben Foster following an exquisite pass inside the full back from Nobby Solano. Dyer's lack of celebration may have had something to do with the smattering of abuse directed at him from the away end - unwarranted on this occasion, at least.

We never looked like increasing our advantage, though, and early in the second period the Hornets drew level, Marlon King scoring from the spot after Nicky Butt - one of our few decent performers on the day - was very harshly adjudged to have handled deliberately despite having had the ball blasted at him from point-blank range.

The rest of the game was - like much of what had gone before - instantly forgettable, perhaps destined to be remembered only as Michael Owen's last appearance in a Toon shirt. Of course, Mickey didn't actually manage to see the afternoon out, colliding with team-mate Matty Pattison and being stretchered off with concussion in front of the onlooking Steve McLaren. Our place in the history books as the masters of tragicomedy is surely assured.

And so a pretty miserable point - gained rather fortuitously in the end, thanks to Williamson's misses - on the 13th day of May brought confirmation of our 13th place finish. Appropriate for what is currently an accursed club.

What will 2007/8 bring? Things can only get better? I wouldn't bet on it.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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