Thursday, March 27, 2014

Magpies left counting the cost of opponents' clinical finishing

Newcastle Utd 0 - 3 Everton

Once again we were left to rue our lack of a cutting edge as Everton came to Tyneside, dealt comfortably with what we had to offer and returned to the north-west with three points in their pocket. After the two fortuitously secured 1-0 wins over Villa and Palace, the scoreline harked back to the dark days of January and early February, and though we did as I hoped and raised our game from Saturday, showing plenty of endeavour and having the bulk of efforts on goal, we were never really a match for a side determinedly chasing down a faltering Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.

We set out with the same starting XI as against Fulham and Palace, which meant HBA, the creator of Cisse's winner on Saturday, had to be content with a place on the bench once again. In the first five minutes, the bit appeared to be firmly between our teeth, blue-shirted bodies blocking shots from de Jong, Goofy and Cisse.

However, that superiority had dissipated by the time Romelu Lukaku's shot presented Tim Krul with the unwelcome opportunity to get involved in the action. Ross Barkley then gave the visitors the lead, running 70 yards against a backpedalling defence and firing home - the goal enhancing his personal claim to a place in the England squad for the World Cup and confirming that, whatever happened in the remaining 70 minutes, there would be no repeat of our stoppage-time 1-0 victories in the two previous home games.

We huffed and puffed for the rest of the half, to no great effect, and early in the second our predicament worsened. Loanees Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu combined for the big Belgian to score the visitors' second (his fourth against us in four appearances); by contrast, of our own two loan forwards, Remy was still sidelined and de Jong was once again totally off the pace, belatedly replaced by HBA.

As he did against Palace, the substitute nearly conjured up a goal, his mesmerising run leaving Mini V with a glorious chance to reduce the arrears, but the Dutchman contrived to miss the target - as did Goofy with a volley that flew over the bar. Mr T's long-ranger, meanwhile, was repelled by Tim Howard.

MYM was hauled off for Sylvain Marveaux (though Paul Dummett had been equally poor) as we went for broke. However, we couldn't create another clear-cut chance and Lukaku extended Krul again before Leon Osman rounded off a flowing move in clinical fashion with three minutes remaining, giving the scoreline a gloss representative of Everton's finishing prowess if not of the overall balance of play.

Having gone nine home games without defeat to the Toffees, we've now lost three of the last four St James' Park meetings - a disappointing reversal of fortune, even though (as John Carver acknowledged afterwards) there's no denying they're a quality side.

Our next test, away to Southampton, promises to be every bit as tough, and we can only hope that Remy will be ready to leave the treatment table in time. Against the Saints' fluent midfield and front three, I'd be tempted to play a 4-5-1 formation, with Cisse alone up front and HBA in for de Jong, stationed wide on the right - the three in the middle would give us greater stability and the Frenchman has probably earned a start (and the perpetually misfiring loanee a demotion to the bench). That said, the Silver Fox has spoken of there being trust issues - not only whether he can trust HBA, but whether the players can too - so it remains to be seen whether he mixes things up against our rivals for eighth place.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone think Vickic Ferguson n tavernier will be heat next season some good goals on YouTube for rotherham, tavs is a bellter against nots county

2:37 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

I'm not sure about Vuckic and Fergie, but Tav may well have a future given how well he's been doing at Rotherham - especially if the rumoured interest in Debuchy from the likes of PSG, Bayern Munich and Roma comes to anything.

10:44 am  

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