Saturday, April 03, 2010

Hold Tight London Road

Peterborough United 2 Newcastle United 3

Cambridgeshire has been no happy hunting ground for the Toon over the years. A 2-0 Carling Cup capitulation at the same ground in September is just one of two particularly ghastly memories: Wor Kev's presence having failed to avert a 1-0 defeat at Cambridge in 1984, despite the hosts having gone almost 30 matches without a win. Still, with promotion a near certainty before today, Magpies could afford to approach this East Coast Line derby with a decent degree of calm. Posh will be two divisions adrift in 6 months and beset by the turmoil of a chairman's seeming disinterest, their lower league scrappers would surely be ripe and easy pickings.

Hughton's XI of choice kept things familiar across the backline and in central midfield, but Fabrice Pancrate on the right and Joey Barton on the left provided a relatively novel twist. Up front, Leon Best was chosen to partner Shola Ameobi.

But it was a horror show of a first period. Peterborough, employing an enterprising formation involving three centre backs, wing backs and a packed midfield, dominated. A casual opening epitomized by some woeful deliveries from Barton from set pieces, was compounded as Coloccini and Harper left a gap as wide as the Tyne between them, let the ball bounce and enacted a textbook Keystone Cops routine. A blatant shove by Liam Dickinson on the tousel haired Argentine was missed by the officials and Dominic Green hooked the ball in with elan. Two further chances fell to Coloccini's countyman Sergio Torres, as Best and Nolan failed to convert at the other end. But a fully merited half time deficit was averted after a breezy move down the left involving Enrique and Best; Nolan forcing the ball in from a few yards. This after Harper had tipped over a header from Charlie Lee resulting from one of Exodus Geohaghon's stiff arm throws.

At half time, some above average tunes from Blur and Black Kids were blasted over the tannoy and the feelgood factor was beginning to mount, helped in spades by a rare opportunity for the Toon Army to stand at a football match. Hughton will rightly receive credit for a revitalization of focus, but mysterious substitutions from the dapper Jim Gannon, the author of some curiously self-obsessed programme notes, played into the Londoner's hands. Abandoning the effective 3-6-1 shape of the first half proved foolhardy as Magpies' superior physical power came to the fore. Pancrate made way for a fluorescent booted Wayne Routledge and it was to be an auspicious cameo from the ex-QPR man, his link up play with Best especially catching the eye. The shaky Gabriel Zakuani was carded for upending Big Shola and Barton, having clearly re-adjusted his rifle sights at the break, bent in a peach to send the zebra shirted hordes into raptures. Cue an old fashioned bundle involving outfield players and bench and chants of, "If Bristol score, we're on the pitch". Now rampant, Best missed a sitter while one on one before Ameobi raked in a low shot that appeared to be heavily deflected, bamboozling the otherwise impressive England benchwarmer Joe Lewis. The striker's celebration was almost apologetic but there was soon more brilliance on display as the lithe Best was twice denied by Lewis.

A 30 minute purple patch ended when another Geohaghon hurl caused unnecessary havoc and the preening Dickinson, named man of the match, touched the ball in, with Harper flailing. Butt came on for Ameobi and Gutierrez for Barton, the latter milking this latest reversal in fortunes with gusto. No further scoring resulted, neither here nor at Ashton Gate and the champagne bottles will require transportation back up the A1. Monday should be a party.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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