Wednesday, January 14, 2009

(Taking a) chance would be a fine thing

Newcastle Utd 0 - 1 Hull City

OK, how could this evening have been any worse? Let me count the ways:

1. We could have succumbed to the killer goal in the last minute of an unwanted half-hour of extra time, rather than eight minutes from the end of the normal 90.

2. We could have picked up yet more injuries.

And, er, that's just about it.

We may have almost completely dominated the game from start to finish and created a catalogue of chances nearly as thick as Argos's Christmas effort, but the fact remains that we lost to a Hull City reserve side to exit the FA Cup lamely at the first hurdle.

At least Phil Brown had the luxury of choice when it came to selecting his side - JFK's hand was most definitely forced. It would be a novelty if we made it through a season WITHOUT more than ten first teamers being out injured at any one time. The absentees from Saturday's starting XI included Jose Enrique (not the first time he's gone missing), Geremi, Steven Taylor and Andy Carroll, the latter pair considered only fit enough for places on the bench. In came Charles N'Zogbia (in his beloved left back role), David Edgar, the suspension-free Nicky Butt and Xisco.

Even our depleted side looked far too strong for the visitors, and so it proved. Our £6m Spanish donkey of a striker was soon exhibiting the qualities that had made him hitherto invisible to JFK despite the injury crisis, blazing over when teed up perfectly by Spiderman. Rather closer to breaking the deadlock was Butt, whose header from Danny Guthrie's free kick came back off Matt Duke's crossbar. Cunning thespianism from Hull striker Daniel Cousin earned Fabricio Coloccini a booking and resulted in JFK being sent to the stand (now where have I read that before?) together with his opposite number Phil Brown for what referee Phil Dowd's notebook probably euphemistically describes as "a frank exchange of views" conducted at such proximity that their noses may have been touching.

Enter Little Saint Mick to miss the first of three opportunities so presentable they weren't just scrubbed and clean-shaven but buttoned up in a tux and sucking on breathmints. Kamil Zayatte and Mackem Ted Danson-alike Paul McShane, momentarily possessed by the spirit of Newcastle defenders past and present, collided with each other, leaving Mick with time and space to score. Instead he launched the ball high into the stand, clearly forgetting he was supposed to be inspiring Xisco, rather than vice versa.

The second came early in the second period, Damien Duff laying on the chance but Duke unfortunately equal to Mick's shot and able to push it behind for a corner. With only one team showing any real ambition or desire to win, we continued to press, N'Zogbia doing well (given the enormous and cumbersome "Lyon / Arsenal / Spurs / Villa, please come and buy me!" placard sticking out from the back of his shirt) to dribble goalwards before Zayatte blocked his shot.

Only a matter of time, we were still thinking - but in fact it was only a matter of time until we were made to rue our profligacy. Richard Garcia created the chance and Cousin finished it off from close range to deliver the punch that really did show us for the suckers we so often are.

There was still time for substitutes Carroll and Kazenga LuaLua to nearly combine to vital effect, and for Little Saint Mick to complete his hapless hat-trick, heading Guthrie's cross up, over and behind, but the equaliser wouldn't come.

So, the first time we've failed to score at home this season, and it cost us dear. No more idle dreams of plum home ties against Millwall and escapist fantasies of progress to the later stages of the competition - it's back to the bread and butter of the league, which, given that the bread is currently stale and the butter rancid, is hardly an appealing prospect.

Was it really only a year ago that we were welcoming back King Kev with a Third Round replay demolition of Stoke? It's a funny old game, isn't it? Just not funny ha ha.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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