Monday, November 05, 2007

Four shame

Newcastle Utd 1 - Portsmouth 4

Shambolic defending from the start against a visiting Portsmouth side who hadn't won at St James' Park in over 50 years saw Newcastle slump to their first home defeat of the season. Despite threatening early on with a good effort by N'Zogbia, the visitors effectively wrapped up the points in a three goal five minute burst which completely knocked the stuffing out of the home side.

With Allardyce choosing to send out a side featuring Milner on the left and N'Zogbia on the right (presumably with instructions to cut inside their opposite full backs) and with Steven Taylor returning to the starting line up at right back, it was a slightly unbalanced Newcastle side which took to the pitch at the start of the match.

On 7 minutes, a Portsmouth corner part-cleared by stand-in captain Nicky Butt to Noe Pamarot, who hammered a blistering shot past Steve Harper. Almost straight from the resulting kick-off, a wayward Abdoulaye Faye pass allowed Portsmouth to float a hopeful ball downfield, and Benjani was able to easily shrug off the attentions of Cacapa before placing the ball past Harper.

Minutes later, and a long ball forward down the left skimmed off Steven Taylor's head, allowing John Utaka through on goal. He easily went past Cacapa and slotted the ball past Harper. With the ground stunned, the game was effectively over inside 12 minutes.

A come back of sorts briefly threatened to erupt, as Owen's shot was saved by David James only to rebound off Sol Campbell and give us a brief glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately, we were unable to really regain the initiative by forcing a second goal. Allardyce hauled off the woeful Cacapa to be replaced by Rozenhal after 15 minutes, and we looked far more assured with the Czech in the defence. However, nobody in a black and white shirt was enjoying a decent game, and Portsmouth were able to contain us for the remaining 75 minutes.

We did create several decent chances, the best of which fell to Martins (on for Jose Enrique) whose header from two yards was blocked by David James. But the boost which that goal would have given us was never to come, and from a free kick on the left (following a foul by Barton) Niko Kranjcar's in swinging free kick deflected off Taylor's shin and past Harper. That Taylor was simply wafting a leg at the ball was symptomatic of a lacklustre defensive display by the whole team.

What is clear is that a similar performance next weekend at the dark place will not be good enough and the murmurings of discontent will become howls of anguish.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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