Sunday, March 04, 2007

Derby dud

Newcastle Utd 0 - 0 Smoggies

A drab affair and a disappointing result, but - at last - a clean sheet, our first in the Premiership since November.

In truth, though, it wasn't much of an achievement against a Smoggie side who showed zero attacking ambition, content to neutralise what little threat we posed ourselves to claim a point.

However, rather than risk sounding like Arsene "Sour Grapes" Wenger and bemoan the opposition's stultifyingly negative tactics (how dare teams not open up obligingly to be ripped apart?), I'd prefer to point to our own shortcomings. Obafemi Martins had an off day, while our creative trio of Kieron Dyer, James Milner and Charles N'Zogbia - the former two restored to the side after being rested last weekend, and the latter back from injury in place of Damien Duff - failed to spark much of note. It didn't help, of course, that Jonathan Woodgate is in imperious form and was intent on reminding us of what we missed out on in the summer.

Chances were at a premium. Only Fatty Viduka forced Shay Given to dirty his gloves, firing in a shot on the turn, while at the other end Mark Schwarzer saved well from Martins and Milner.

In the second period the latter came closest to giving us the lead our superior possession and pressure just about merited, striking the crossbar with a free kick, before Scott Parker hit a shot narrowly wide of the far post when played in by Dyer. Glenn Roeder threw on the man who sang his praises in yesterday's Independent, but to no avail. Parker had one last opportunity, his header parried by Schwarzer, and that was that.

Suffice to say we'll have to show a good deal more creativity and determination if we're to beat Louis Van Gaal's AZ Alkmaar at St James' on Thursday and take a lead over to Holland for the second leg.

Other reports: BBC, Independent, Guardian


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