St James’ Park
Saturday November 9th, 3pm
Following a much better weekend for Mr Bruce, which left us all feeling both shocked and elated, in equal parts – it’s back to business, as that nice young chap, Eddie brings his battling Bournemouth team to the North East Riviera.
The South coast side from the Subbuteo stadium are once more punching above their weight in England’s top flight. If you ignore the fact that they properly took the piss out of the ‘Fair play’ rules to reach the promised land, it’d be a particularly heartwarming tale.
They are a modern day phenomenon. Despite having less historical culture than a pot of yogurt and an average home attendance that would struggle to fill the Leazes End, they are now enjoying a 5th consecutive season in the Premiership, and show little sign of disappearing any time soon.
Mr Howe has put together a very tidy squad. They have talent running all the way through their team. From Aké at the back, to last year’s assist supremo, Fraser in midfield and the likes of King & Wilson up top. I can think of three or four others I wouldn’t mind Newcastle getting their mitts on, too. (Tubby owner looks on sternly)
They arrive on Tyneside in 7th position, but crucially only three points ahead of us, making this one a full on ‘six pointer.’ Their last outing saw them despatch Ole’s misfiring Mancs, 1-0 and whilst that’s not quite the scalp it once was, they’ll no doubt be in buoyant mood.
What of United, and where to start??
As I penned my last preview, we were all in shock at the absolute ineptitude on show in that 2nd half v Wolves. Both on the pitch and possibly more importantly, in the dugout we looked clueless.
How typically NUFC is it to then go to the London Stadium and play the Hammers off the park? Only, the terminally naïve or completely mental saw that coming. It was also so ‘us’ to be three up, when it easily should’ve been five or six and then capitulate, letting in two late goals to leave us hanging on with bulging Pampers in added on time
If I dwell upon the positives, St Max is showing glimpses of being the ‘real deal’, Jonjo belatedly reminded us what a great midfielder he can be and our centre backs can’t stop scoring.
On the flip side, we’ve now notched nine times this season and only one of those has come from a forward. Joe put in a much better performance last Saturday, assisting Clark’s goal superbly, but we could really do with him finding the net a few times.
Two other concerns are, we’ve actually only managed to score three times at SJP and our manager is showing clear evidence of struggling with substitutions/tactics in the closing periods of games.
Re, the first one – What’s the problem? Do we struggle when the onus is on us? Are the empty seats and numb atmosphere having an effect? Or is it a bit of all these factors combined?? The second one is more palpable. Against Wolves, it was clear things needed altering on about 60 minutes. On Saturday gone, the game suddenly turned on its head late on. Steve’s answer to both? Do nowt & make confusing late subs to run the clock down. He’d no doubt point to four points from six. My answer would be ‘You won’t always be so fortunate, pal.’
On to the dreaded prediction…..
My soothsaying took a right kicking last time out and for all the reasons mentioned above, this one isn’t looking any easier to work out. To be perfectly honest, the score line could be anything.
Both sides have form for sometimes suddenly ‘not turning up.’ However when at it, each can be a handful. So, who will want it more? You’d like to think that the way we played in London will be a huge fillip. Confidence is such a huge thing in sport and we should be going into this one with the bit between our teeth.
I reckon the smart money will be on a draw. However, I think we might nick this one by the odd goal in three. Let’s hope I’m correct and at least one forward manages to trouble the scorers. I’m off for a lie down, as all this positivity has given me a nose bleed. Until the next time….
Nick Clark @Clark5Nick