Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jolly Gut show

Bristol City 2 - 2 Newcastle Utd

Resilience once more to the fore, as we left Brizzle in the drizzle with one point which could so nearly have been three. 2-0 down at half-time, a Spidermag-inspired Newcastle fought back onto level terms and finished pressing for a winner that wouldn't quite come.

We went into the match knowing that Forest had beaten bottom side Peterborough (as expected) and that Preston hadn't quite managed to recover from conceding two goals inside the first ten minutes at The Hawthorns. But we were boosted by the continued presence of Wayne Routledge, Fabricio Coloccini and Jose Enrique in the starting line-up, the only change from Wednesday's dismissive defeat of Scunthorpe being Leon Best, in for the injured Peter Lovenkrands.

Having lost their previous home game 5-2 to Doncaster and under the caretaker charge of Keith Millen for the first time since Gary Johnson's departure in midweek, the Robins could have been forgiven for starting nervily, but in fact they - and particularly the movement of their front pairing, Nicky Maynard and Danny Haynes - caused our back line problems from the off.

Escaping an optimistic handball shout inside the first minute, our hosts came close to scoring twice, Haynes heading onto the roof of the net and then finding a determined One Size blocking the trajectory of his shot. When they took the lead ten minutes in, it was from an unlikely source. Steve Harper saved but couldn't gather Maynard's free-kick (awarded very cheaply for an alleged foul by Routledge) and defender Lewin Nyatanga reacted quickest to prod the ball into our net.

Best wasted a good chance presented to him by slack Robins defending before supplying Kevin Nolan with an opportunity, but the recently crowned Championship star performer was unable to direct his header beyond the reach of Dean Gerken, the City 'keeper carrying on where he left off in October.

And it got worse before it got better. Spidermag was giving ex-Toon player Bradley Orr plenty to think about on our left, and went down claiming a foul - only for Maynard to collect the subsequent long clearance, move infield and fire a perfect strike across Harper and in off the far post.

With half-time seconds away, we very nearly reaped the reward for neat approach play, Danny Guthrie rounding Gerkin only for Paul Hartley to clear off the line. It would have been just the fillip we needed going into the break, but we could at least draw some comfort from the fact that we were unfortunate to be trailing by two goals, especially having been in control of the ball for long periods. A few more efforts on goal and things might look rosier.

Chris Hughton was forced into making a change barely five minutes into the second half, One Size pulling up to be replaced by Tamas Kadar. We soon reasserted our possessive dominance but, with Best and Bigger Lad proving a dysfunctional pairing and substitute Evander Sno escaping censure for striking out at Danny Simpson off the ball, the breakthrough was looking increasingly improbable.

When it did finally come, it was unsurprisingly the result of a mistake. Spidermag caught Cole Skuse (and the TV cameras) napping from Gerken's throw out, expertly rounding the 'keeper and rolling the ball into the empty net.

Four minutes later we were level, an incisive move culminating in Routledge squaring the ball for Bigger Lad to slide home and add to his burgeoning collection of priceless goals.

By this point Routledge was playing down the left, Spidermag having been switched to the right flank where he was enjoying himself immensely. At times four red-shirted players seemed to have been assigned to track our Argentinian winger - all of whom were bamboozled by his skills on more than a couple of occasions, as Orr had been in the first half. Fed at every opportunity, he created a couple of chances for himself, but the best fell to, well, Best, whose thumping header was spectacularly touched over the bar by Gerken.

It's strange to complain of feeling hard-done-by when your team's fought back from 2-0 down to claim a point, but the truth is that in that closing quarter of an hour we could easily have condemned an admittedly spirited Robins side to another defeat. Still, given the situation with 20 minutes left to play, this was a draw that should have felt like a win - so let's look on it as such.

Other reports: BBC


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