Friday, August 24, 2012

Raylor belter ensures Greek bailout

Atromitos 1 – 1 Newcastle Utd

A heavily rotated and relatively inexperienced team and sweltering heat meant that I viewed last night’s match with a fair degree of trepidation.

With a total overhaul of the team, the Silver Fox handed first starts to Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana, brought James Tavernier in at right-back and gave Steve Harper his first start for the club in over a season. Up front, Papiss Cisse kept his place, with Sylvain Marveaux, Obertan Kenobe and Dan Gosling for support. At the back, Perchinho partnered captain for the day Mike Williamson in the centre of defence with Raylor assuming the left-back role.

As might be expected, it was the home side who started the brighter, with Denis Epstein looking dangerous down their left and our former striker Shefki Kuqi’s younger brother Njazi also looking lively.

Having served warning once, it was Atromitos who opened the scoring when a diagonal ball over the top caught Tavernier out and allowed Epstein to get behind him and slot the ball under the out-rushing Harper.

Newcastle looked to get back into the game, but Obertan Kenobe in particular endured a pretty poor game, leaving Cisse isolated, and our best threat looked to be from set pieces, with Raylor’s long throws and free kicks causing the home side difficulties. His first free kick bought a good save from the 'keeper, with his feet, but his second, on the stroke of half time, was even better and brought us back level.

The second half saw both sides waste decent chances, with Obertan Kenobe firing over on the volley and late substitute Adam Campbell (whose appearance from the bench saw him break Rocky’s record and become the youngest player to ever play for us in Europe) linking well with fellow substitute Romain Amalfitano but unable to fashion a winner.

At the end, with the heat taking its toll on both teams, a draw was a fair result and one which means a clean sheet next week will guarantee our passage to the group stage. Aside from Campbell’s appearance, both Bigirimana and Anita enjoyed good games in the heart of midfield and Raylor again took the opportunity to remind the Silver Fox of his potency with a dead ball. The other point of note is Steve Harper’s reinstatement as our second-choice 'keeper – proving there’s life in the old dog yet.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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