Monday, October 26, 2009

Better late than never

Newcastle Utd 2 - 1 Doncaster Rovers

The line between success and failure is, as has often been observed, a very thin one indeed. So it was yesterday, when, reduced to ten men and with the clock ticking into injury time at the end of the 90 minutes, we looked on course for a fifth consecutive game without a win. But then up popped Kevin Nolan to sneak a goal which stopped the rot and sent us back to the summit of the table. Happy days.

Not that it had been much of a happy day up to that point. Homer was restored to the starting line-up in place of Geremi to form a two-pronged strikeforce with Bigger Lad, but repaid that faith with a similarly listless performance to the one delivered at the City Ground last week.

Meanwhile, Danny Simpson's ankle injury meant a start for Tamas Kadar - and Kadar it was who was largely at fault for Donny's goal, Billy Sharp escaping his attentions to set up Dean Shiels from close range. We gradually began asserting our authority on the game as the first half wore on, though (as Chris Hughton noted afterwards) there wasn't much in the way of creativity or invention, and neither Spiderman nor Bigger Lad were able to convert very presentable opportunities that came their way shortly before the interval.

Bigger Lad fluffed an even better chance early in the second period, but credit to him for plugging away. Hughton bolstered our offensive threat on the hour by replacing Homer (now seemingly a target for the boo boys) with Nile Ranger, and seven minutes later we were level, Bigger Lad ghosting in at the far post to sweep Danny Guthrie's pass home on the volley.

We now looked by far the likelier winners - until, that is, Ryan Taylor rashly handled when going for an aerial challenge in the area. But ex-Mackem Martin Woods stepped forwards and blasted his penalty wide of Steve Harper's right-hand post and we began thinking our luck might be in after all. Further evidence: old boy James Coppinger was withdrawn soon afterwards having failed to score against us.

The notion that for once fortune might be smiling on us was tested when Zurab Khizanishvili was red-carded for his reaction to Sharp's sly punch on Kadar, for which the Donny man was only booked. An appeal is in the pipeline - hardly surprising, given the circumstances and the fact that we're already without Simpson and Steven Taylor, and Fabricio Coloccini still isn't quite ready to be risked.

Even with ten men, though, we weren't to be denied the win our superiority (if not the overall quality of our display) merited, Nolan continuing this season's decent goalscoring form. That sealed our first win since the thrashing of Ipswich, and was the first time we'd scored more than once since that game at Portman Road - the obvious message being that we need to be more ruthless in front of goal.

The result edged us back into top spot, one point ahead of Cardiff who, like the increasingly potent QPR, recorded a four-goal victory on the road. West Brom and Blackpool both played out goalless draws away from home, while Preston and the Smoggies drew 2-2.

Sheffield Utd are our next opponents - many people's tip for promotion, the Blades are in a bit of a rut and defended like drunken toddlers against Cardiff, but our last two away performances have been sub-standard and I expect we'll need to improve to bring anything home from South Yorkshire.

Other reports: BBC


Post a Comment

<< Home