Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Diabolical derby display

Newcastle Utd 0 - 3 The Great Unwashed

Well, that was all a bit shit really, wasn't it? Certainly not the introduction which our newest fan would have wanted.

Shuffling his pack after Thursday's Europa League exit, the Silver Fox welcomed back Saylor, Goofy, Mathieu Debuchy, Mr T and Sylvain Marveaux to the starting XI. With Santon still injured, he opted to deploy Spidermag at left-back rather than stick with Massadio Haidara.

While we had some fresh legs on the pitch, equally there were a number of players, Dreamboat included, for whom this was the fourth game in 11 days and, to be blunt, it showed. In the first half, we looked off the pace, continually second best to a team enjoying the dead-cat bounce of a new manager and undoubtedly benefiting from not having played in midweek.

With Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon looking threatening for the visitors, we were perhaps fortunate not to concede an early penalty for a Saylor tug on Toon fan Danny Graham. We were undone soon enough, when Spidermag cut infield before playing a poor square pass which allowed 5unde1and to break quickly and Sessegnon took full advantage with a shot from outside the box which just found the bottom corner.

At the other end, we nearly got back into it, with Papiss Cisse drawing a good save at point blank range from Simon Mignolet, and then testing the 'keeper again a few minutes later with a longer-range shot which saw Mignolet at full stretch.

As is expected in a derby, even one in which Lee Clattermole isn't playing, tackles were still flying in with Goofy fortunate to only get booked after going over the top of the ball, while Saylor was perhaps unlucky to be booked challenging for a loose ball in the penalty area. For the Mackems, Danny Rose picked up a yellow for a two-footed lunge on Debuchy.

At half-time, the Silver Fox turned to Big Lad, in the hope that he could carry on his Mackem-slaying heroics of recent years. It wasn't long before the bench was again in use as Tim Krul departed in obvious pain, with a dislocated shoulder.

What was apparent was that we at last looked to have raised our tempo, and we started to take the game to 5under1and and looked to be back on terms when Cisse fired home from a tight angle, latching on to Moussa Sissoko's knock-down from Marveaux's free kick, only for the linesman to wrongly rule it out for off-side.

HBA was introduced in place of the flagging Dreamboat in the hope that he could reprise his impact from Thursday night, and he nearly did so, heading over from close in.

Having had one goal wrongly ruled out and having missed another good chance, we then allowed Adam Johnson too much space and he cut infield and curled a long-range shot past Elliot's outstretched hand.

As we continued to press forward, we were again caught with a sucker punch when Sessegnon again ran forward before cutting the ball to David Vaughan who was borderline offside. Vaughan took one touch before curling the ball into the far corner.

Much as it pains me to say it, on the balance of the whole game the better side left with the three points.  That said, if Cisse's goal had been allowed to stand, we'd have been back on terms and with the momentum we could well have gone on to win.

The Silver Fox pointed to tiredness after the match, and in some cases that may well have been true. However, it doesn't explain the fact that as a team we were all sluggish and particularly in the first half were second best too many times. Nevertheless, if the price to pay for further adventures in Europe is the occasional loss to a team who have fewer European goals as a club than Big Lad, it's possibly a price with paying (provided we don't have to pay it very often).

What we still need to do is focus on our remaining league games so that we can firstly pick up enough points to survive and secondly generate some momentum to take into the summer. If the Silver Fox can do that, then he'll be safe. If he can't then the murmurings of discontent which this result inevitably triggered may grow into a sizeable protesting voice.

Other reports:  BBC, Guardian (thankfully not TBW)

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