Monday, November 08, 2004


A fantastical voyage unfolded before my eyes on Sunday, as four men shaped the destiny of one of the most one-sided attacking performances I’ve ever seen from Newcastle, and also one of the worst results I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness.

Howard Webb, the referee acted like Fulham's twelfth man throughout, ignoring a blatant foul on Shearer in the build up to Fulham’s first goal of the match, and then ignoring a clear penalty, again following a foul on Shearer two minutes later. If he'd got both of those decisions right, we'd have been one nil up rather than one nil behind, and the I'm confident that the rest of the game would have panned out very differently. Howard Webb – the new Uriah Rennie?

Mark Crossley, the visiting goalkeeper was simply outstanding. Saving shots with hands, feet, and even face, he can rarely have played a better game in his entire career. Not since Schmeichel helped manure beat us to the title when he withstood everything Keegan's team threw at him several years ago have I seen a visiting goalkeeper give such a brilliant performance.

Andy O'Brien and Robbie Elliott, our centre-backs who were our only defenders to finish the game as Souness went for broke in the second half. Unfortunately they were also the two members of our team who had absolute shockers: O'Brien being culpable for Fulham's second, and Elliott for their third. The only way a clearer indication of where our weaknesses lie could have been displayed would be if they'd had a massive Lottery Hand point at them, and say “It's You”.

The frustrating thing is that I really believe we should have won the game. Our attacking play was brilliant at times, and once Robert replaced Hughes early in the second half, the quality of our set pieces improved dramatically. That none of them went into the net was down to dogged Fulham defending and Crossley's brilliance on the day. If only we could learn to defend as well, we'd be in a far healthier position than we are currently, but with the current resources available, it could be a long couple of months to January for those of us watching the shambles that can be our defence.

Listening to 6-0-6 after the match, you'd have thought we were bottom of the league the way some people were slagging off Souness, but to be honest he wasn't really to blame. Yes, taking off Bernard and leaving Jenas as part of a back three probably wasn’t the greatest plan (surely removing JJ would have been a better idea?), but apart from that there really wasn’t much he could have done, we simply need to hold our hands up, give credit where it is due, and chalk it up to experience.

At the end of the day 20 shots on target against 8 tells a tale of the game, but sadly the 1-4 scoreline is the only statistic that truly matters.


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