Monday, August 17, 2009

Jolly good Sho

Newcastle Utd 3 - 0 Reading

A Shola Ameobi hat-trick, the first of his senior career, was more than enough to overcome a weak Reading team before the watching Sky cameras on Saturday.

Enjoying one of those games which have been too few and far between, Shola was outstanding, with his strength and power, allied with good footwork, proving unstoppable. With Bigger Lad alongside him, the brutal fact is that the Royal's defence were overwhelmed.

However, this game wasn't won simply because our front two were literally and figuratively head and shoulders above their markers; the team as a whole showed a real commitment to the cause which was sadly lacking for much of last season. This was best illustrated by our second goal, when the Reading team gave up, assuming the ball was running out of play, only for Kevin Nolan to sprint to the ball and cut it back to ASBO. His ball inside found Ryan Taylor hurtling forward, and our right back's cross to the back post was met by a fine diving header from Shola into the Gallowgate net.

That goal was Shola's second diving header of the match, with his first opening the scoring in the first half when he met a Jose Enrique cross to nod the ball into the ground so that it bounced up and over the despairing dive of Adam Federici in the Reading goal.

With Chris Hughton planning to replace Shola with Xisco with about 15 minutes to go, Big Lad asked to be left on for a corner. As the ball was flighted in to the box, Shane Long handled the ball under little pressure from Steven Taylor, and Shola was able to step forward and confidently slot home, having sent the keeper the wrong way, and notch his maiden first-team hat-trick at the 151st time of asking.

Obviously, it's easy to look good against poor opposition, and Reading look a poor team, but praise is due almost universally, with a number of other chances spurned to make the score even more flattering. Whisper it quietly, but from the car-crash of our summer travails, it looks like something approaching some team spirit and resolve might be emerging.

On the minus side though, whilst Gutierrez again looked great with the ball at his feet (save for one moment in the first half when he got a bit tangled up when through on goal), he still looks incapable of hitting a decent cross. Coloccini too was outmuscled on a couple of occasions, and continues to look something of a liability. However, Enrique made some really encouraging runs forward, and players like Nolan, ASBO and Smith also enjoyed decent games.

The only other negative to take from the game was an apparent injury to ASBO's foot - the same foot which was broken last season, and which kept him out of the team for such a long period of time.

The other point of interest was the presence of Barry Moat sandwiched in the stands between Fat Mike and Llambiarse. It is to be hoped that a deal to sell the club is moving forward, as there's now only two weeks to add some depth to our painfully thin squad.

View from the away end: The Two Unfortunates - Reading fan Lanterne Rouge is full of praise for our performance against his boys, even going so far as to suggest Coloccini had a good game...

Other reports: BBC (including video highlights - no clue if they will work overseas mind), Guardian


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