Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coronation's treat for Keano

Newcastle Utd 2 - 2 Ipswich Town

A record Championship crowd of 52,181 turned out at St James' Park on Saturday to see the title winners crowned - but sadly (if unsurprisingly) there was no repeat of the scoreline last time we were presented with the trophy for storming the second tier. Trust our old foe Roy Keane to deflate a few party balloons by urging an Ipswich side with nothing to play for on to deny us victory with a last-gasp goal.

The injured Steven Taylor and the benched Alan Smith aside, it was arguably our strongest XI that took to the pitch. That meant starting places for all four of our players since named in the PFA's Championship team of the season: Jose Enrique, Fabricio Coloccini, Kevin Nolan and Bigger Lad.

The visitors began brightly, forcing two corners inside the opening couple of minutes, but the danger passed and we duly took the lead with our first effort of note. Wayne Routledge proved himself as handy on the left flank as on his more customary right, skinning the full back and lofting in a perfect cross for Bigger Lad to thump a textbook header past Brian Murphy.

Little in the way of goalmouth incident followed, but Ipswich grabbed an equaliser shortly before the interval, teenager Connor Wickham capitalising on some slightly lax defending to rifle the ball into the bottom corner of Steve Harper's net.

The second half drifted by in much the same fashion as the first, with our far more capable side coasting along with the bulk of the possession while our opponents posed the greater attacking threat.

Hughton withdrew Nolan, Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands for ASBO, Nicky Butt and Big Lad, and the latter pair both had crucial roles in what looked like the winner. Butt burst into the penalty area only to be felled by a bizarre knee-slide of a challenge from ex-Mackem Grant Leadbitter - perhaps he was disoriented by the presence of thousands of real Newcastle fans rather than just a handful of imaginary ones... Despite the crowd's appeals for Butt to take the spot-kick, Big Lad did the honours, and with aplomb.

At that point there were only six minutes on the clock, so closing the game out successfully - as we have on so many other occasions this season - looked straightforward. But instead some more defensive slackness - Keane may have had a point when he suggested some of our players were already in "holiday mode" - and the generosity of the linesman allowed Jonathan Walters to bear down on goal and roll the ball past Harper.

In other circumstances that goal, coming four minutes into stoppage time, might have dredged up awful memories of those two 2-2 draws against Wigan and Stoke last season when we threw away vital points that ultimately cost us dearly. But in reality the game was merely a sideshow, a mildly unsatisfactory aperitif to the ensuing party which nevertheless ensured we went the whole season without losing a single game at home in the league.

The scenes which unfolded after the final whistle - the lifting and kissing of the trophy on a podium in the middle of the pitch amidst much whooping, leaping around and confetti, followed by an amble around the perimeter to warm, genuine and appreciative applause - were something we've waited a long time to see again. It's just a shame we had to drop down a division for that to happen.

To return to the comparison with the 1992/3 season, back then our title triumph was wholly unexpected, given that we'd only narrowly escaped relegation the previous campaign. This time around, despite our pessimistic pre-season predictions, there was a sense that promotion was very much what we had to try and achieve for the long-term health of the club, so as such, it's really only a case of mission accomplished - nothing more. The players and staff could be permitted a few flutes of champagne on Saturday, but the really hard work starts here.

Other reports: BBC


Post a Comment

<< Home