Tag Archives: Newcastle United

It gets better and better: Watford, Wigan, Liverpool and Newcastle

After enduring games against Watford and Wigan when the team, rather than the Manager, played like it had a prison sentence hanging over its head we regained our composure with an excellent defensive display at Anfield and a stupendous first half performance against Newcastle at Whit Hart Lane last night. As we appreciate sport at the very top level is all about confidence and having a clear head and that really shone through against Newcastle. Maybe it was the manner of the loss at Man City but it seemed more of a “got something on my mind” situation.

What’s more deadline day eyebrow raiser Louis Saha took 20 minutes to equal his haul for Everton this season with two well taken goals as we ran though a Newcastle team that took two mandatory counts in the first six minutes. You have to feel sorry for Defoe sitting on the bench looking on but for me Saha showed all that Pav didn’t for the majority of his stay at the Lane and certainly increased our options for the remainder of the season.

To be truthful I didn’t see all of the Watford game but in the second half action I saw we looked like the Championship side and without Kaboul could have been out. I had heard Rafa’s goal on radio commentary whilst driving and was shocked when I saw how far out he had been when he hit it. Thankfully we progress to the next round but if we don’t play better it could be interesting.

Next up was Wigan in a game which we took all of 20 minutes to get going in. Yes, a comfortable win but Wigan were so bad in the first half that they should have been lucky to get nil yet ended the game looking for a second. Having said that the goals when they came were wonderful. 

Modric’s deep chip across the box to Bale was delightful and Gareth took it brilliantly and despatched it for 1-0. Modric then got in on the act with a well hit shot from the edge of the box to give us a 2 goal lead at half time. In the second half Bale scored another excellent effort but to be honest the Wigan men were like subbuteo men sitting off him and allowing him to strike his now trademark left edge to right corner shot. 

Wigan’s consolation came from a looping deflection but at a time when we should have been inflicting further goal difference improvement upon them and as I said earlier they then pressed for a second. To be fair we did introduce all three subs including a debut for Cameron Lancaster who worked hard to get into the game so the team ended a little disjointed with Livermore having to drop to right back in place of Walker. He himself had been a sub coming on in the first half to replace Rafa who had ended up sitting down on the half way line and throwing his shin pads away in frustration.

This time it was a calf injury for Rafa rather than the usual hamstring and he didn’t make the Liverpool or Newcastle games. That could have presented a problem as Anfield has always proved a difficult place to get a result and our bench on the night showed how stretched the squad had become. Saha and Rose, who got on, plus new boy Nelsen, Khumalo, Luongo and Lancaster.

However, a stirring display gave us a creditable point with Dawson and Parker being outstanding. We also had a chance on the break during the second half which Bale unfortunately scuffed straight to Riena when he maybe had a little more time. 

Suarez was available but despite not being called upon to practice his handshakes got on after an hour and within minutes had planted a kick into Parker’s midriff. After the Manchester City game I suggested that Ballatelli might have been unlucky when standing on Parker but for me this Suarez incident was similar to the Lescott one. Is it important to make it look as bad as possible so that you get away with it? I suppose it is as that is how Stoke have got used to going about their work. 

Some years ago Drogba fell down for fun but then for no apparent reason stayed on his feet more and earned more respect for showing the player he is. Suarez certainly needs to take that wise counsel as he looks a good player who is too keen to win at whatever the cost rather than by exercising his skills. 

And so to Newcastle, with Lennon and Defoe returning to the bench, and a first start for Saha. Newcastle’s error may have been to try and give us a game for their early attack was cleared and suddenly Benny turned up on the far post to turn in Adebayor’s cross to light the blue touch paper with his opener. 

We’d hardly sat down before Adebayor crossed from the right for Saha to arrive perfectly and prod it home past Tim Krull sending us into raptures. Newcastle weren’t done and tried to come back at us but Dawson and King were solid at the back setting Luka back into possession from where he orchestrated further damage with a second for Saha and then Kranjcar making it four before the break. 

An early goal in the second and it could have been 10 but to Newcastle’s credit they battened down the hatches and did well in closing the game down. We still had plenty of second half possession and missed a couple of chances before Adebayor turned home a Saha header in spectacular fashion to add a goal to his 4 first half assists. 

In many ways this result is what could have happened in a number of games had we put away our chances and what looked good was the way Saha and Adebayor worked together. Defoe did get onto the field and had a few runs but nothing opened up for him to remind Harry of his talents. 

Both Wigan and Newcastle were a big reminder to Harry of the affection with which is currently held at White Hart lane. Last night he was bombarded with a continual outpouring of emotion from all sides of the stadium asking him to stay and continue managing this team. 

The team were fantastic last night so Harry had little to do. Unfortunately a problem with a plane prevented Harry from travelling to Liverpool but had he we might have played better in the second half. His work will be cut out from now till the end of the season in our games at White Hart Lane. 

Whilst Manchester United will come out and play Stoke, Swansea, Norwich, Blackburn and Fulham will no doubt have taken heed and unless we can open them up early doors we face further 10 men back games to avoid further goal fests. 

Before then its FA Cup and then that lot up the road. That promises to be some game.

Come On You Spurs    

Two points dropped? Newcastle 2 Spurs 2

Our last two games have had a consistent theme in the first half – an inability to hold onto the ball. Against an inferior Arsenal side it was like business as usual with them having lots of possession and us providing them with more by giving it straight back; today we were plain sloppy and far too narrow for most of the first period.

Bale began on the right wing to allow Modric room to drift in from the left and he did not look comfortable. Unfortunately neither did Modric and it took a switch to give them any sort of comfort. Once again we played two more defensive midfielders away from home with Livermore coming in for Sandro alongside Parker. 

Livermore is improving all the time but I don’t think he is quite ready to stamp his authority on a game yet. We played the two men together to subdue Newcastle’s advances and control the midfield but I didn’t think we got it done as we should have today. As the game wore on all too often it looked like previous years with Newcastle running at us and putting us under pressure.

For our part we attacked them too and surely should have scored more goals than we did. Krull made an excellent block from Defoe, Van Der Vaart was casual early in the second half and enterprising breaks came to nothing as the final pass either was delayed or went astray.    

The problem looked like our formation. Our difficulty is trying to fit in all the flair players when a little caution is required. You can’t push Luka out on the wing and expect him to control the game. After half time we improved because he took the ball and ran with it but such a free role leaves holes elsewhere. That left one of the full backs with two men bearing down on him. 

In the first half Obertans and Simpson got after Benny until Bale switched sides at which point Gutierrez was more able to cause us and Walker more trouble. With two DM’s playing it was clear we weren’t buckling through the middle so we presented them with chances to go round us once they realised. 

The two DM’s are right but the midfield also has to support on the flanks so it seems we need to go one up front and choose between Rafa and Luka. Easy choice? Not really; one is more likely than the other to score whilst the other really runs the team. 

As the game opened Kaboul and King were comfortable at the back until a groin injury struck and Bassong was called in to replace him. We tried to be comfortable on the ball but were all too bunched so all we really achieved was being on top of one another and easy to close down. 

Up front Adebayor had another decent game though I couldn’t understand why he was substituted on 89 minutes for Pav when a winner was sought. He was lively, mobile and won us the penalty that Rafa put away for a half time lead. In the second half he resumed his partnership with Defoe and we created a number of chances with JD taking his goal superbly with a quick turn and fine shot.

Unfortunately, Ameobi had similar ideas to Defoe despatching a shot across Friedel into the right corner of our net. Friedel made a number of good saves and tried sneakily to get the ball back across the line when they scored their first.  Had King continued would it have mattered? Maybe, maybe not but as the ball went in both centre backs were with the same man. Certainly Newcastle needed to be more dominant in the second half and they came out all guns blazing. 

What was disappointing was our lack of commitment in the tackle for the first equaliser – and for the second game running – with Modric replacing Rafa as the sleeper. Walker may get some stick for being the full back where the goals came from but I thought he had a decent game and got back when he had been beaten to good effect. 

Kaboul had a really good game alongside him winning nearly everything in the air and Parker after an ordinary opening was more active in his passing in the second half. Once again Bale had a disappointing afternoon seeming to find reasons not to push on and run at them. They acknowledged his danger and had men around him but he seemed a little reluctant.

And so a point won or two points lost? It has to be lost and whilst in previous years we could have lost the game if we want to be in the top four we needed to win this game from the position we were in. Krull’s save from Defoe might be the crucial moment and you might see Livermore and Adebayor waving frantically as the first shot was charged down. We still have a game in hand and if we win it the top four beckons.          

Lively Lennon’s late strike leaves us lifeline. Newcastle United 1 Spurs 1

I was reminded of the 1961 cup final yesterday when watching Spurs game at Newcastle. In that game the Leicester player Chalmers got injured and played like a passenger on the wing for the remainder of the game as no substitutes were allowed. Yesterday Bale, having dropped to full back, suffered a recurrence of the back injury which forced him off at Everton and Bassong came on to replace him. It was a tough ask for Bassong to handle, particularly with Corluka on the bench, and I thought he looked out of his depth for most of the first half, much like Chalmers.

Not his fault but with Gallas playing well on the deck but not winning much in the air should he not have shifted to left back allowing Bassong to come into a role in which he has done well? Bale’s injury was in the first 10 minutes so it would have put the entire pre match planning to waste but it made any penetration down the left very difficult. 

Bassong did his best but to ask a centre back to actively participate in an unfamiliar role with the quality of player around him was putting substantial pressure upon him. May it be no surprise that our offensive play improved when we went 3-5-2 late in the second half in an effort to get back into the game.

I’ve written before about 3-5-2 (“Question for Harry, Might we go 3 at the back?” and “What do we do now, Formation, formation , formation”) and been shouted down yet after being forced into it we held onto the ball and put Newcastle onto the back foot. It was needed for after controlling the first half, without reward for our possession, we had gone behind as Newcastle re-established themselves through a defensive mistake. Worse still Newcastle had chances to add to their lead and Cudicini, in for the injured Gomes, was forced into action and made some decent saves.

At the point of the switch Harry, for the second week running, withdrew the defensive midfielder and threw caution to the wind. Lennon was switched to the left flank and Hutton put into a wingback role with Modric, Van Der Vaart and Pienaar in central roles behind Crouch and Defoe. It was certainly risky but we needed to get back into the game. 

Whilst Lennon may not have fancied going out left he took to the role well and continued with the lively performance he had put in on the right during the first half. Like many in the side his strength when tracking back is more noticeable and his tackling skills have improved. He beat his man on a couple of occasions and was unfortunate when a Newcastle heel deflected away a low cross that could well have produced an opener.

His goal was well taken. Having taken the ball he cut inside before unleashing a perfect shot that Harper was unable to stop. His complaints to the two defenders about forcing Aaron away from goal were too late but it was a great individual goal of the sort that he has been scoring this season. The fact that it was solo goal was not a surprise based upon the previous 90 minutes of play. 

Newcastle was determined in defence and had men back to thwart us for most of the match. With Rafa often deep we were outnumbered and decent opportunities were few and far between. Pienaar had a shot that sailed over the bar which should have forced a save and Defoe tried hard to make opportunities for himself every time the ball arrived at his feet. 

Some were close but passing still looks a skill that is alien to him when the team breaks together and others may be in better position. Unfortunately the chance to break the deadlock just before half time whilst producing a great save from Harper should really have gone in and maybe that would have produced a different points haul.

Having said that we had survived some difficult first half moments ourselves. After weeks of worry with Gomes, Cudicini made an awful effort at a cross from the left and the ball should have ended up in our net. Similarly a Dawson attempted headed clearance lacked power and fell to Ameobi who fired wide when he maybe had more time.       

As predicted Jenas received some stick from the home fans but played well pushing forward on occasions and Modric was difficult to dispossess once again. His edge of the box shot which smashed into the bar would have been great reward for his recent performances but it was not to be. 

Hutton had some decent moments but should have done better with the cross that led to Newcastle’s goal but Coloccini took it like a striker rather than a defender. Dawson’s passing was strong but he was caught on a couple of occasions. His sliding effort to intercept Barton’s perfect pass can be overlooked but he was nearly undone by Ranger and allowed Ameobi a free header from a corner whilst we were one down.

So how was Pienaar? After a quiet start he settled in and linked well with his new colleagues. Our style is different to Everton so having got used to Bale’s pace on the left it was noticeable that he was keener to cut back and come inside. Near the end of the game he was substituted suffering from cramp and replaced by Kranjcar who now seems surplus to requirements.

Interestingly there was no Pav on the bench so maybe he was dropped off on Wearside. Today’s transfer rumours suggest he may now want away but our problem may be to recover the fee paid for him – unless a target makes us get reasonable to replace him on the squad.  

So 3-5-2 sees us secure a point in injury time but will it be deployed s a regular fixture. I doubt it but we may see it again if there is a game to chase.