Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thank goodness that's over

Newcastle Utd 0 – 1 Arsenal 

With recent results rendering us safe, from our point of view the only thing remaining to be decided on Sunday was our eventual resting place amongst the also-rans (albeit with a hefty bonus on the line for the non-playing staff). For our guests, however, their place at the top table of Champions League football was under threat from Gareth Bale and co and as such the prospects of our rousing ourselves sufficiently to win the match always looked doubtful.

With Spurs playing 5under1and, it was safe to assume that they’d get the points needed, which meant Arsenal had to go for the win, so it was no surprise to see Arsene Wenger gambling on the fitness of Mikel Arteta in his midfield.

For us, with Rob Elliot suspended and Tim Krul injured, it was an opportunity for captain-for-the-day Steve Harper to play his final game in front of a full house, as the curtain drew on twenty years of loyal service.

Having shipped nine goals at home without reply in our previous two home games, it was pleasantly surprising to see us start well and look to not only get on the front foot, but also looking solid at the back (no doubt thanks to the continuing reassuring presence of Sideshow Bob in the ranks). Our first decent chance came as MYM burst forward down the left, leaving countryman Bacary Sagna languishing in his wake, as he crossed for Papiss Cisse. Unfortunately Cisse’s shot sailed high over the bar, but it at least signalled our intention to attack.

At the other end, Harper was largely kicking his heels until the 37th minute when the entire ground (including the Arsenal keeper) rose in applause to salute our departing keeper and leaving him wiping a tear from his eye. Harps himself had further reason to be misty-eyed moments later when he stopped an offside shot with his bollocks.

Our only other chance of note in the first half came as HBA cut inside his marker only to send his shot over the bar.

Goalless at half-time, we were unchanged for the second half. Arsenal, having lost Arteta to injury before the break, continued to press for their much-needed goal and when Dreamboat was adjudged to have fouled Theo Walcott, the one-time Southampton youngster’s free-kick was headed on by Per Mertersacker before dropping to his defensive partner Lorent Koscielny, who lost Sideshow Bob and was able to volley the ball into the net, via Harper’s face.

With our attempts to get back on terms proving toothless, the Silver Fox emptied the bench, throwing on Vurnon Anita for Dreamboat, Sylvain Marveaux for Goofy and lastly Adam Campbell for MYM, but to no avail. The best chance of another goal fell to Walcott, who broke through on goal only to see his shot ricochet off the post.

At the end, Arsenal celebrated as if they’d won the league, while we embarked on a lap of the pitch, led by Harper and his kids, as others such as Danny Simpson also bade farewell. How many more of those also circling the pitch were waving goodbye remains to be seen.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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