A dreary August afternoon saw us trudge back to SJP for the first home game of the season with the sense of pessimism almost palpable. In the end, the best thing we could say was that at least we picked up our first point of the season but in truth, for long spells of the game we lacked any sort of ideas and were toothless in the final third.
With Steven ‘Top Bants’ Taylor thankfully suspended, we welcomed back Davide Santon, with Anita, Marveaux and Shola all on from the start after the capitulation at Man City. The crowd were actually fairly vocal in getting behind the side in the early stages but the game fell into the sort of directionless pattern that we had grown oh so used to last season. The tactic in the first twenty minutes seemed to loosely involve giving Ben Arfa the ball and hoping that he could beat ten men and score from roughly 40 yards with a screamer.
Going forward, West Ham seemed to be directing everything out wide to Jarvis and he certainly had the better of Debuchy – good crosser of the ball aswell. We managed to keep steady under the threat of the ball into the box though with no-one handling it, clutching their chest to feign an injury and rolling around like a tit we almost looked like a defensive unit. Mbiwa had a good game aswell playing in his better position at the centre of defence.
Chances were very few and far between – West Ham looked most dangerous from a couple of long balls into the box that almost evaded everyone and at the other end, Anita and Sissoko exchanged a neat one-two only for the Frenchman to shoot wide.
The second half started in much the same vein and West Ham came close to taking the lead when Nolan surprisingly headed wide when he looked certain to score on the hour. That chance woke us up a little and Pardew took off Marveaux to be replaced by Sammy to boos from sections of the crowd. Not sure on that one mind – Marveaux was poor and spent half of his time either drifting inside or getting brushed off the ball and as limited as Sammy is, his introduction actually spurred a slight change in our approach and the last twenty minutes of the game was our strongest spell.
The visitors had an effort that went marginally wide and Gouffran was brought on, surprisingly for Cisse rather than a lumbering Shola and as the rain hoyed it down, West Ham visibly started to sit back more and invited on what limited threat we had. Ben Arfa wriggled into a couple of positions but always seemed to want to beat one too many and as we were weighing up whether a point at home to West Ham was actually an alright result given our shattered ambitions and negativity approaching the game, they almost nicked it in the 89th minute. Thankfully, as the ball pinballed around the box, Maiga was rightly flagged for offside as he knocked it in the back of the net from a Morrison shot. A word on Morrison aswell – wearing gloves in August? Not exactly gangsta like is it?
Deep into stoppage time and having mustered precisely NO shots on target all game, it looked like we would bag an undeserved winner. Sammy put over a cross/shot that evaded Jaaskelainen and looked for all the world to be heading to the far corner. It came back off the post to land at Gouffran’s feet about three inches out and he managed to spoon it over. I’m writing this having not seen the replay but it looked an absolute sitter.
So, thoughts trudging through the puddles after the match? Well, make no bones about it, we were at best mediocre, at worst shite. Sissoko was poor in his favoured position in the centre of midfield and with Anita sitting deep, we were pedestrian to plodding in going forward. I heard Pardew pattering on about how great Anita was and if the highlight of our afternoon is expected to be a holding midfielder playing tidy eight yard balls sideways against a mid table Premiership side, at home on the first game of the season then frankly why are we bothering? He wasn’t even very good either.
Minimal ambition, a clear lack of confidence, no cutting edge and an almost comically poor bench to turn to if we had a Plan B up our sleeves. It’s not looking good is it? Twisting on about Cabaye’s ‘unavailability’ puts aside the fact that for the vast majority of last season he was garbage or missing and does anyone seriously believe the club have done all they can to encourage him onto the pitch where he risks a knock? Hardly.
I’ve barely written a match report with so little reference to match ‘action’ but basically, there wasn’t any. I didn’t enjoy any aspect of going to the match today and I was almost dreading going along to the extent that I’m almost looking at a desperate 0-0 draw as some form of success. Put simply, I and I’m sure thousands of other Mags aren’t enjoying Newcastle United at present and that is fundamentally wrong. That’s entertainment eh? I dread to think what the next seven days is going to bring. The thought of Kinnear rather than Pardew in the dugout this time next week after an embarrassing cup exit at Morecambe is looming large in my nightmare.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Tim Krul 6, Mathieu Debuchy 6, Mapou Mbiwa 6, Fabricio Coloccini 6, Davide Santon 6, Sylvain Marveaux 4 (SAMMY Ameobi 6), Vurnon Anita 6, Moussa Sissoko 5, Hatem Ben Arfa 6, Papiss Cisse 5 (Yoan Gouffran 5), Shola Ameobi 4
Ref – Dowd – 6 – No real grumbles. Extra mark for weight loss.
Our Fans – 6 – I dread to think what it would have been like if they’d have scored. There is absolutely zero goodwill to team, management and owners but make no mistake, the ONLY thing Newcastle United have to be proud of is it’s support and they tried their best despite everything
Their Fans – 7 – Best London support.
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