United made it six points in a week in a game that will only remembered for a piece of outstanding refereeing incompetence as the Championship officiating reached it’s nadir in the form of Keith Stroud.  Chancel Mbemba made a surprise return to the starting line up as we started with a very attacking line up with Colback (thankfully) and Hayden missing to be replaced by Diame and Atsu from the side that started against Wigan.

We started with a good tempo and Shelvey again looked sharper in the middle as we got at the Brewers from the off.  Dummett stuck a couple of good balls over in the first ten minutes that almost led to something and Gayle latched on to a clever through ball from Perez but saw his effort blocked before the talking point of the game came on half an hour.  We’d gone into our shell a little bit at the time and when a ball was played to Gayle as he was going away from goal towards the edge of the box, there seemed to be little on but he was clumsily bundled over and the referee correctly pointed to the spot.

Ritchie stepped up and converted a routine penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way and we looked to have taken a deserved lead before chaos ensued.  The Burton defender placed the ball down for a free kick to bemusement from the crowd before the referee raced over to confer with the linesman for what seemed like an eternity but having given the impression that he had given the decision to them.  Sure enough, the goal was disallowed and Burton wellied the free kick upfield to a real mix of astonishment and anger from the entire home crowd.  Now I’ve watched, played and organised football teams for well over 30 years and I’ve never ever seen anything like that.  Anyone with even a tenuous grasp of the laws of the game might have understood if the penalty was ordered to be retaken and there was certainly encroachment but the decision to award a free kick from an arbitrary place in the box?

Even given the absolute mind fuckingly dreadful level of refereeing that we’ve seen this season, this was on an entirely different level and the remainder of the half was played in near anarchy, with the linesman failing to flag for (our) players who were patently five yards offside, giving throw ins seemingly with their eyes shut and being so palpably out of control of the situation they were overseeing that the only humane thing to do was to pack them off to oversee the Brexit negotiations at half time.  A total and utter fucking fiasco.

Underpinning all of this, we were actually playing better than we have for quite a while and we dominated again after the break.  Shelvey came very close with a curling effort that just went wide before the breakthrough finally came with twenty minutes to go.  A cracker it was too, Ritchie picking the ball up outside the box, encroaching (geddit?) on the Burton defence and curling a sublime effort into the top corner to mass celebrations in the stands.  I’d have Ritchie as Player of the Season – his workrate and attitude has been first class, he’s chipped in with loads of goals and assists and he seems like a top lad enjoying himself in front of an adoring crowd.

We nearly chucked it away shortly after the goal when Darlow was forced into an excellent stop from point blank range – his only real save of the night which made up for some poor distribution but we remained in control and saw Sammy and Murphy introduced late on as we saw out five minutes of added time after a Burton lad collided with his own man to end up with a bandaged heed.

The mission was to achieve six points from these two games and we’re going up alongside Chrissy Hughton, which is a nice side story.  Because we’ve won the game, I can’t class Stroud in the absolute elite league of two in Coddington and Trelford but honestly, I can’t see that decision ever being ‘bettered’ if I live to watch NUFC for another hundred years.  We’ll laugh about it all in years to come, honest.

Keep the Faith

Newcastle United  – Darlow 6, Anita 6, Mbemba 6, Lascelles 7, Dummett 7, Ritchie 8, SHELVEY 8, Atsu 5 (Sammy n/a) Perez 7, Gayle 6 (Murphy n/a)

Ref – Stroud – 0 – I mean, what other mark can you possibly give him?

Our Fans – 8 – Much better, we always thrive with a bit indignation

Their Fans – 2 – Nice club, treat us well down there but a really poor following


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