Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reds held for precious point

Newcastle Utd 0 - 0 Manchester Utd

A stalemate at St James' last night saw a spirited team performance earn a point to take us over the 40 point marker and almost certainly guarantee our Premier League survival this season.

With Taggart's Man Utd side coming back from their FA Cup semi-final defeat at the weekend and welcoming back Shrek and Ryan Giggs (who, if internet whispers are to be believed, might have other things on his mind at present), I must confess to feeling decidedly pessimistic about our chances before the match.

However, after an early opportunity was expertly smothered by Tim Krul, Newcastle took control of the match, playing at a high tempo which the visitors struggled to cope with. ASBO and Spidermag looked threatening down the flanks but we weren't quite able to fashion any clear-cut chances for the newly unmasked Big Lad and Peter Lovenkrands. The best early chance fell to Big Lad who managed to connect with an ASBO cross at full stretch, but could only guide it in to the hands of Edwin Van der Sar. With Cheik Tiote (who from hereon shall be known as Mr T on account of his haircut and take-no-prisoners attitude) and Guthrie bossing Anderson and Michael Carrick in the middle of the park, we applied a significant amount of pressure to the visitors.

Unfortunately, we couldn't convert it into a goal, with our best chance coming from an ASBO cross which found Lovenkrands unmarked around the penalty spot, only for the Dane to plant his header wide. At the other end, Shrek managed to elude his marker and create an opening, only to lift his shot over both the advancing Krul and the Gallowgate crossbar.

Goalless at half time, the tide of the game shifted in the second period as the visitors' possession increased and they began to press us back. However, their attacks continued to founder on a well organised defence in which Sideshow Bob stood out, and with Mr T preventing Shrek from finding any space the visitors huffed and puffed without looking likely to blow our house down.

At the other end, we had a good shout for a penalty turned down as Lovenkrands was clipped by Anderson in the box, and Stephen Ireland (on for the last 20 minutes in place of Lovenkrands) almost scored with practically his first touch, his volley from Big Lad's knock down fizzing just wide of the post.

The visitors' clearest opportunity was a Ryan Giggs shot which went just wide of the upright and then, in the final seconds, the biggest talking point (at least if you happen to be from the red half of Kent) when Javier Hernandez went down in the box in close proximity to Danny Simpson's leg. At first I thought the ref had given a penalty, only to see him book the Man Utd striker for his perceived dive. Whilst Taggart may have been fuming, it was at least a fair result given the penalty denied to Lovenkrands earlier in the half. Similarly, whilst Taggart may gripe that Hernandez shouldn't have been booked, the ref ignored a far more blatant dive by Nani in the first half.

The only other noteworthy act from the visitors was the introduction of Little Saint Mick with ten minutes to go, to a chorus of "One greedy bastard" from the entire stadium (including the bloke sat in front of Taggart as highlighted by the Sky cameras). Thankfully the aforementioned greedy bastard wasn't given a chance to respond to the criticism in any meaningful way and nick a goal for his current paymasters.

All in all, a good point against the team most likely to win the league this season, which takes us to 40 for the season and gives us a platform to not only kick on until the end, but also plan for next season's top flight campaign.

Manchester Utd fans' views: Manchester United Football Blog, The Republik of Mancunia, The Stretty Rant, Truly Reds

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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