Where on earth to start with an utter shambles of a first half that lacked ideas, tactics, brains and most of all fight and bottle. Before the game the signs were ominous as word was spread around that the stewards and police were having no messing and chucking people out for stuff that wouldn’t even turn heads at other grounds. On entering the ground one lad was clearly 8 miles high and was having all of his details taken by the police. Quite how he could remember his own name let alone be involved in a conversation of that length was beyond me. When the team news filtered through most people seemed happy that Cisse had been dropped. Personally, it made no sense to me. The lad probably gained some confidence from scoring on Wednesday night so master man manager and tactical extraordinaire Alan Pardew put him on the bench as well as Cabaye after they had ‘had a lengthy chat’. Isn’t that the manager and physio’s decision to make?
On to the game and pre-match worries about the size, strength and goalscoring abilities of Romelu Lukaku were shown to be well founded when from virtually Everton’s first attack Miralles easily ran past Santon and crossed for Lukaku to smash home. Santon couldn’t be arsed, Coloccini was nowhere and the frankly atrocious MYM was all over the place (not for the last time). We tried to pass the ball around but all too often we were outfought and any slight contact was penalised by Phil Dowd who gave another display of home bias similar to his one at QPR a few years back. When we did get possession Tiote and Sissoko did their level best to give it away with only the tidy Anita showing any resolve and ability on the ball. We were soon 2-0 down when once again Lukaku was given the freedom of Goodison Park to chest down the ball 35 yards out and slide a ball through to Barkley who smashed past Krul. Thoughts of an utterly dispiriting repeat of the last time we faced a Merseyside team were beginning to run through my head at this point and barring a weak Ben Arfa effort we had offered nothing. However, if the first two goals were poor then the third must rank up there with the worst we have given away under Pardew. A simple long punt was bottled by MYM and Coloccini and just as crucially Tim Krul to leave Lukaku with a tap-in which he gratefully smashed into the net.
When the second half started the majority of the away support weren’t in the ground to see Gouffran hit the post when he should have scored. This seemed to spur the team on (hopefully after an absolute bollocking from Pardew) and the introduction of Cabaye and Williamson helped us massively. Cabaye dictated the pattern of the game and stopped Gareth Barry from doing so, which he had been in the first half. In the last two games Huddlestone and Barry have outdone our midfield. Worrying. We soon had a sniff of a way back in when Cabaye flashed an unstoppable, swerving effort into the top corner past the flailing Howard and we stayed on the front foot without creating a clear cut chance, although Jagielka cleared from Remy as he was about to blast home. We did manage to set up a frantic finale when Debuchy’s header across the box was met by Remy in between Distin and Jagielka to poke past Howard. One late Remy drive over the bar was as close as we came to an equaliser unfortunately and we left Goodison Park ruing an awful first half performance that if we repeat again may not see us rally as well.
Whilst the easy targets of Debuchy and Gouffran get their fair share (of deserved criticism) the likes of Santon is left off. He was abysmal last night along with the two French speakers in midfield. The two centre halves were an embarrassment; total cowards and bottled it against a bigger, more combative forward, not relishing the challenge at all. Remy was isolated and Gouffran is struggling with the pace of the league. Tactically we’re a mess and have no back up plans to any sort of tactical shift that an opposition manager may have. Special mention to Mike Williamson who was excellent when he came on. He won every header, covered and actually got up against Lukaku. Strange then, that the big Belgian barely touched the ball second half. Unfortunately it was too late by then, a lesson Pardew should have learnt from MYM’s shambolic performance at Morecambe. Dummett at left back on Saturday and Santon at right back? This being Newcastle United we’ll probably go and win on Saturday
Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Mathieu Debuchy, Fabricio Coloccini, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Mike Williamson 46), Davide Santon, Chieck Tiote, Vurnon Anita (Papiss Cisse 69), Hatem Ben Arfa (Yohan Cabaye 46), Moussa Sissoko, Loic Remy, Yoan Gouffran.
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Paul Dummett.
DAVID X SMITH
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