Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ewood have the last laugh, wouldn't he?

Newcastle Utd 1 - 2 Blackburn Rovers

Is there anything more galling about last night's result than the thought of the smug look that must have been smeared across Fat Sam's ugly visage at the full-time whistle? A man who "named his sumptuous new Costa Blanca villa 'Casa St James', because he bought it with his £4 million pay-off from being sacked as Newcastle boss", as the Mirror's Simon Bird noted back in May when quite rightly describing our former manager as "bitter". How infuriating and upsetting that he had reason for celebration on his first return to his former home.

While we could have foreseen our nemesis being the person who would bring our Premier League winning streak to an abrupt end, the manner of the defeat was surprising, and the causes of the goals which undid us particularly so. In both instances, some of the season's star performers made uncharacteristic but costly errors.

Understandably unchanged from Sunday's splendid win at the Emirates, we got off to the worst possible start, caught cold by a Blackburn side evidently fired up for the occasion by their manager. I've expressed anxieties about Cheik Tiote's penchant for working his way out of tight corners in the past (while also appreciating his extraordinary ability to do so successfully) - but barely two minutes in he lost possession while attempting an audacious dribble out of the penalty area, the ball gifted to Morten Gamst Pedersen who shot home across Tim Krul. Our Ivorian midfielder has been a revelation so far this campaign, but by the way he threw himself to the turf in exasperation you'd hope he's learned his lesson on this particular score.

Nettled, we tried lamely to get back on terms. Jose Enrique, cutting inside, had a goalbound right-footed shot deflected behind for a corner, while captain Kevin Nolan sought to reprise his pre-Orgygate heroics against 5under1and but sent one effort wide and the next over the bar. The visitors, operating with a well-marshalled three-man central defence, rarely looked troubled.

Big Lad departed at the break (presumably through injury) to be replaced by Nile Ranger, and, just as Blackburn had in the first period, we struck early in the second. Despite having terrorised more feted (or at least more expensive) central defenders of late, Rocky had had precious little change out of hulking beast Christopher Samba - but when ASBO sent in a long flighted free-kick from near the halfway line, he pulled clear at the back post and directed a superb header past Paul Robinson and into the top corner.

Parity restored, there only really looked like being one winner. Blackburn had the odd chance, but the impetus was now firmly with us, as we bossed possession and applied pressure. Spidermag's shot was saved by Robinson, Ranger fired wide and a handful of decent crosses went begging.

There followed two punches, one literal and one metaphorical. The unfortunate victim of the former was Pedersen, the perpetrator ASBO - who had the gall to suggest afterwards it was simply a shove in the chest. Idiocy of the very highest order from someone apparently aggrieved at Rocky hogging the headlines and determined not to become a "Goody Two Shoes". He may have escaped unpunished by referee Mike Jones, who missed the incident, but I can't see anything other than an FA ban coming his way.

The second metaphorical sucker punch came eight minutes from time, Rovers substitute Jason Roberts profiting from Sideshow Bob's misjudgement and knocking Mike Williamson aside before finishing straight through Krul. Given the wealth of attacking riches they kept at bay on Sunday, the duo will no doubt feel ashamed they made it so easy for a striker who at this level is average at best.

We half-heartedly kept up the pressure, but the stuffing had been knocked out of us and 2-1 it stayed.

If you'd told us on Sunday morning that we'd record a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 defeat in this fixture and the game at the Emirates, then I think we'd probably have accepted it (if expected the results in a different order). We also stayed in fifth thanks to Everton's 94th minute equaliser against Bolton courtesy of former Toon target Jermaine Beckford (for what it's worth, with just six points separating us from Wigan in 18th).

All the same, the fact that a side as prosaic and unremarkable as Blackburn have now won on their last five visits to St James' Park is alarming, and the addition of another poor 2-1 home defeat to go with those inflicted by Blackpool and Stoke is mystifying given the systematic dissections meted out to Villa and the Mackems. And then, of course, there's the small matter of having flattered Fat Sam's ego and delusions...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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