Friday, August 26, 2011

Sammy stunner sinks Scunny

Scunthorpe Utd 1 - 2 Newcastle Utd (aet)
(1-1 at 90 minutes)

Two moments of quality were enough to ensure Newcastle got past a spirited Scunthorpe Utd side last night to book their place in the next round of the League Cup, but only after extra time.

Starting sluggishly, Newcastle were instantly on the back foot as the home team sought to take the game to us, and after 15 minutes duly had their reward when Chris Dagnall scored when we failed to correctly re-organise our defence after a corner was cleared. Frustratingly, when the ball came back in, it was Demba Ba playing everyone onside and the unmarked Dagnall slotted home past Tim Krul. To be frank, if you are ever in a situation where your striker is the last man, you know something has gone wrong somewhere, and our sloppiness was deservedly punished by a smart finish.

With Krul called upon to make a number of good saves, Newcastle looked to be hanging on a bit as half-time approached. At that point, Mike Williamson was forced off after a crunching tackle and Steven Taylor replaced him, meaning that we had our first-choice back four on the pitch.

Half-time clearly brought a rocket from Alan Pardew, because it was Newcastle who were out of their blocks the faster after the interval. With several good chances coming our way, Leon Best was unlucky to have a goal chalked off for a marginal off-side. However, it wasn't until ten minutes from full-time that we finally got back on level terms, with Ryan Taylor firing home a free-kick from just outside the Scunthorpe box to make it two goals in two games for him.

There was even time for a penalty shout when the goalscorer was bundled over in the box, the referee presumably concluding that our left-back had gone to ground a little too easily (albeit the push seemed clear to me).

Honours even at full-time then, and with Haris Vuckic and Little Big Lad on for the ineffective Ba and similarly underwhelming Dan Gosling, Newcastle started to assert themselves more and more, with the two youngsters increasingly to the fore. It was Little Big Lad who finally settled the tie with an excellent run and shot with his weaker right foot with eight minutes of the match remaining. Having previously fluffed an easier chance by trying to take it on his left, it was a surprise to see him hit one with his right, but it flew into the net.

Thankfully, from there Newcastle were able to see out the match without too many worries.

On the positive side, the performances of Krul, Sideshow Bob, Vuckic and Little Big Lad all stood out for praise. However, Ba looked off the pace, and neither Best nor Lovenkrands did anything to press their claims for a start against Fulham on Sunday. Similarly Sylvain Marveaux showed some early spark, but at times was crowded out too easily for my liking, and if anything Little Big Lad might be the one closer to the first team.

Surprisingly, Pardew opted against given Alan Smith or Steve Harper a run, and while both continue to add depth to the squad, the ongoing likelihood of much involvement beyond reserve team level looks slim.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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