Monday, February 02, 2009

Disaster averted

Newcastle Utd 1 - 1 sunderland

A stirring second half come-back by Newcastle ensured that the mackems didn't do the double over us, and we added one more point to the total at a snowy St James' Park yesterday.

With new boy Nolan coming straight into the midfield to partner the returning Butt, and a patched-up Ameobi joining Andy Carroll up front, it was a slightly changed line-up from the team who had been beaten by Man City in midweek. However, it was the visitors who looked the more potent force in the first half, with Cisse and Jones giving Bassong and Coloccini a fairly tough ride.

Whilst the mackem started the brighter, we looked like a side still in need of confidence, and with a new central midfield pairing to bed in, were on the back foot at the start. But, after some initial pressure, Newcastle slowly started to get their game flowing, with Gutierrez and Enrique linking up well down our left. However, as has so often been the case this season, for all our efforts, we created precious few chances for Ameobi and Carroll - the best chance being a looping header from Carroll which bounced off the bar and behind.

At the other end, Nolan was forced into his first meaningful action for the club, when he cleared a shot off the line after Kieran Richardson's free-kick had hit the post, but otherwise we seemed to be coping with the threat posed by sunderland's strikers. However, a hopeful punt forward, saw Coloccini unsuccessfully rushing out to play Cisse offside, the Argentine's charge forward serving only to leave the Frenchman unmarked, and he slotted the ball past Harper at the second attempt to give the visitors a one goal lead.

Half-time clearly saw some stirring words from JFK, because after the interval we were a much improved team. Shooting down the hill towards the Gallowgate end, we increased the tempo and accuracy of our passing, and with sunderland unable to clear the ball, we started creating chances.

Unfortunately, the majority seemed to fall to Ameobi, who was apparently playing through the pain, and who looked like a player who was just lacking a little sharpness in front of goal. Damien Duff launched himself into the air in the box following little or no contact with Anton Ferdinand, only to pick up a yellow card from Howard Webb for his troubles, and when Steven Taylor crumpled whilst charging into the box it seemed likely that a similar booking would follow. Instead, Howard Webb pointed to the spot. Ameobi it was who stepped up and hammered the ball into the roof of the net, to rack up his fiftieth goal for the club - a goal which had looked increasingly unlikely under the reigns of both Fat Sam and Keegan.

With time still remaining, both teams started to go for the win, and with Gutierrez continuing to cause the mackem defence problems, it looked like we might be able to nick a winner. However, the best chance of the game fell to the visitors as Agent Chopra (on for the injured Cisse) robbed Coloccini and raced towards goal. Rather than shooting, our former striker elected to try and square the ball for the onrushing Kenwyne Jones, and his overhit pass sailed past its intended recipient and away to safety. Mission accomplished!

Despite a stirring second half performance, there remains a feeling that this was two points dropped rather than a point gained. Looking for positives, the performances of Gutierrez, Bassong and Enrique all stood out, as did our spirit in the second half as we were chasing the game.

Before the match, JFK commented that today might see another couple of bodies arriving, one of whom, Ryan Taylor, was spotted walking round SJP in a Newcastle track suit before the match. We can only hope he'll be joined by at least one more person before today is out.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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