Sunday, December 07, 2008

Faye fuck's sake

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Stoke City

For 90 minutes this game seemed like a carbon copy of the West Brom game at the tail-end of October, in which we raced into a two goal lead at the break, re-emerged without a clue of how to defend our advantage, conceded a goal and ended up clinging on desperately for a victory that should have been so much easier.

No such luck.

With the game into injury time, it suddenly became a carbon copy of the Wigan game, a recently discarded Toon central defender - this time Abdoulaye Faye - popping up to crush our spirits and deny us a vital two extra points.

Truth be told, Faye's goal was much more painful a blow than the one inflicted on us by Titus Bramble. After all, just ten minutes before Bramble headed home, we'd been losing so in a sense it was still a point gained - whereas yesterday we had the lead from the eighth minute, and our first half display was such that throwing it away looked impossible.

With Charles N'Zogbia and Spiderman marauding to great effect down the flanks and Little Saint Mick in deadly form up front, we spent the first 45 minutes tearing a shellshocked Stoke apart. Spiderman's clever threaded pass set Little Saint Mick for the first, an inch-perfect finish across ex Mackem Thomas Sorensen and inside the far post. A quarter of an hour later, shortly after Stoke had been forced into a substitution, Little Saint Mick doubled his tally, sliding in to prod home from Obafemi Martins's fizzing low cross. At the time it only looked a question of how many we would score, and certainly I would have put money on Owen completing his hat-trick.

But then came half-time, with hindsight as welcome as being trapped in a lift with a farting Mackem. Tony Pulis said a few choice things to his charges, while his opposite number JFK had to decide what to do in the light of Danny Guthrie's injury. With Nicky Butt and ASBO already on the sidelines and no midfielders of any description on the bench, Steven Taylor came on at right back, Habib Beye was pushed into midfield and Spiderman was instructed to operate in a more central area with Geremi.

Our Argentinian winger instantly became markedly less effective and only a desperate tackle from Taylor foiled Richard Cresswell as we began the second half seemingly convinced that all we had to do to beat a side that had amassed a grand total of two points away from home was to turn up.

A even more key substitution came just before the hour mark. We'd managed to nullify the threat of Rory Delap's gargantuan throw-ins to such an extent that he was withdrawn, but with top scorer Ricardo Fuller introduced in his place we then set about giving the visitors the opportunity to show they're not the one-dimensional team everyone's been labelling them as.

Fuller's impact was instant, making a mockery of Fabricio Coloccini's recent displays by easily outfoxing the Argentinian and crossing for Mamade Sidibe to side-foot past Shay Given. Infuriatingly, we failed to heed what was rather more than a warning and continued to sit back, inviting pressure from a side with three forwards whose tails were up. Even more infuriatingly, JFK only compounded the problem by replacing Geremi, our only remaining recognised central midfielder, with yet another centre-back in the form of Cacapa.

We would have gotten away with it, though, if it hadn't have been for pesky official Mavis Riley, who spotted an imaginary infringement by Sebastien Bassong on Fuller. It was from the resulting free-kick that the man deemed surplus to requirements in the summer prodded home unchallenged. JFK continued his one-man protest against the Respect initiative, being sent to the stands for his colourful complaints - but if the officials will keep provoking him...

As well as we performed in that first period, we simply didn't deserve all three points on account of the lifeless, gutless, complacent showing of the second. A fourth consecutive draw, in a game we really should have won - and indeed pretty much had by half-time. Thankfully, none of those below us could capitalise: Blackburn lost to Liverpool, West Brom threw away a lead against Portsmouth and only got a point, and the Keane-less Mackems lost at Old Trafford as expected - though the fact it took a goal as late as Faye's from Nemanja Vidic to do the damage certainly wasn't.

Would we take a point away at Europe-chasing Pompey next Sunday? Probably - but that might land us in the bottom three, so we really need more.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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