Friday, September 21, 2012

Drawing a blank

Maritimo 0 – 0 Newcastle Utd

After a battling performance against Everton on Monday, and with Norwich the visitors to St James’ Park on Sunday, it was inevitable that the Silver Fox would opt to shuffle the pack for our first fixture in the bloated league phase of Europe’s secondary competition.

Sure enough out went the front six and Harper, and in came Rob Elliot for a rare start in goal together with Bigi and Dan Gosling in central midfield, Obertan Kenobi and Romain Amalfitano down the flanks and Haris Vuckic just behind stand-in captain Big Lad.  Wisely, however, we retained the same back four who played against Everton to provide a base of experience and solidity.

Unsurprisingly it was the home side who started brightest, with Elliot forced to make a couple of early stops which helped settle any pre-match nerves our third-choice keeper might have had. 

Slowly we started to establish a platform in the game, with Gosling and Bigi both getting stuck into the midfield battle, and we almost got a goal before half-time, with Big Lad and Gosling both hitting the post. At the other end, Saylor was perhaps lucky to get away with a stray elbow and Williamson with a possible back-pass which the referee chose to ignore.

After the break, Big Lad almost scored one of the goals of the season, embarking on a run from halfway which saw him beat a couple of defenders before curling the ball beyond the 'keeper and agonisingly back off the crossbar. The Silver Fox opted to throw the recovering Little Big Lad into the mix, thus enabling the Ameobis to become the first brothers to play for us in the same European game.

In the end, though, we were thankful for Davide Santon stepping into Danny Simpson’s boots and clearing a shot off the line to ensure we returned to Tyneside with a point. 

While we never quite managed to craft a goal, missing the cutting edge which Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Dreamboat or HBA (serving the last of his three-game European ban) might have provided, this should nonetheless go down as a solid defensive performance in which Elliot and Bigi both advanced their claims for greater first-team involvement and the likes of Vuckic, Amalfitano and Little Big Lad got a touch more experience on the big stage. 

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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