Monday, April 18, 2005

Singing in the rain

Well, the wheels may have well and truly fallen off our season in the last few days, and yesterday's defeat at the hands of Man Utd was completely deserved, but I feel strangely upbeat.

The game itself was a pretty one-sided affair, with Newcastle allowing Manchester Utd far too much time and space in the first half, and it was inevitable that we would be losing by the break. That the first goal came after a Boumsong slip was unfortunate, particularly as he was our best defender, and that the second came just before half-time was really bad timing from our point of view. If we had only been one down at the interval, who knows how the second half would have panned out, but two behind was always going to be a mountain we'd struggle to climb.

In truth the first half seemed to fly by, with the massed ranks of Newcastle fans in great voice in the North Stand, cheering on a team who were being well and truly beaten by a superior outfit.

The second half started with Souness removing the ineffective Faye and the lacklustre Babayaro with N'Zogbia (whose collarbone obviously wasn't broken on Thursday) and O'Brien. Both subs brought some much-needed fight to the middle, with Charles looking to really get stuck-in in an advanced central midfield role, and looking far less overawed than he had done on Thursday night.

Unfortunately, Nicky Butt gave the ball away and from his error, his former team mates profited, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his second, and we were dead and buried. Funnily enough, we then rallied, and Shearer and Shola combined well to send the latter through and his shot went through the legs of Tim Howard to bring some joy to the North Stand.

However, we never really looked like getting close to making a real game of it, and even with Kluivert on to replace Milner we looked easily containable. It came as no great surprise that Manchester United added a fourth when we were throwing people forward and it was Cristiano Ronaldo who got the goal that officially brought our season to a premature end.

We may still have seven league games to play, but apart from allowing some of the youngsters to gain more first team experience, I can't see anyone busting a gut over the coming weeks.

Despite all that, the atmosphere in Cardiff was electric, with the whole of the Newcastle end chanting their support for the entirety of the game. Man Utd may have had the better team on the day, but to paraphrase the singing, their support was shit, and at 4-1 up they still didn't sing.

The question has to be, if all our seats were sold to season ticket holders, and all the Newcastle fans were singing, why don't they all do it at home games?

However, regardless of the result it was a great day in Cardiff, and a wonderfully proud day to be a Geordie, even if the game was crap. Come the summer, Souness needs to clear out the deadwood and buy wisely on what will surely be limited funds, but that's a discussion for another day. Yesterday was all about the atmosphere, and it was magnificent.

Just don't get me started on the journey home…

Other reports: Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian


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