A decent match saw us pick up a point in a game that we could have won against a reasonable Stoke side but our lack of firepower remains a major concern at the start of a critical run of games. Anita came in to replace the suspended Colback but otherwise the side remained unchanged from the derby and the game was pretty open from the off with Stoke a vastly changed outfit (apart from a couple of notable exceptions) from the ugly Pulis sides.
They had the first real chance of the game when a cross evaded Mbemba but also fortunately Walters at the back post whilst Perez looked our main threat with his usual deftness of touch. Dummett sent over a grass cutter that Mitrovic failed to get on target and Wijnaldum almost opened them up on a couple of occasions but the closest that we came all game was a Mitrovic header that came back off the post from a Sissoko cross with Butland beaten. For all that the game was fairly open and expansive, chances were few and far between and the sides went in deservedly level at the break.
The second half followed a similar pattern but slowly we began to get on top and really Butland saved them on a number of occasions as we started to build momentum. The first chance saw a Perez curling effort, crafted from nothing just going wide of the far post and possibly our best chance of the game saw Sissoko played in behind the defence but he dithered slightly and his shot was very well saved by the Stoke keeper, although really we should have scored.
The sideshow to our increasing hold on the game was an ongoing spat between Mitrovic and mainly Wollscheid, although horrible bastard Shawcross was also involved on occasion. This peaked with Mitro pushing the defender over and then flinging himself to the ground when Wollscheid got up and barged into him, earning both yellows. Mitrovic’s focus seemed to go completely for a while as he went looking for it and a red card for one of the protagonists looked a certainty but eventually it fizzled out. For me, Mitrovic is still a very raw, young striker unaccustomed to playing at this level week on week and I thought he was poor today – lumbering and too easily drawn into a game of handbags – he certainly looks nothing like the 15 goal a season striker we desperately need him to be.
We introduced the bone idle and deeply unimpressive Siem de Jong for Tiote to try and muster some creativity but he might as well not even bother coming on, such is his totally nondescript contribution to the cause. Gash.
Butland continued to keep them in it, saving a shot and then a free kick from Wijnaldum that were on target and then saving possibly the best till last, palming over a bulleted header from Lascelles, who had only just come on to replace the injured Janmaat. In fairness, a lot of the efforts were pretty much straight at him, but still he looked the part and it was one of those days where nowt was going past him.
Hearts were in mouths when Crouch was introduced for the final few minutes but we looked pretty solid defensively throughout all afternoon and he never threatened anything other than a hissy fit in his brief cameo. In the end the final whistle was greeted overwhelmingly with applause and for a nil-nil against Stoke City, which doesn’t exactly set the pulses racing it was actually a canny game of football.
The caveat to that though is that it is another poor result for us and our inability to convert superiority in games into goals is worrying. It would certainly be correct to say that there are signs of encouragement in the side and we are improving but we simply have to put sides around us away when we have the chances and anything less than a win down at Bournemouth would be a huge disappointment when we might have the chance to pull ourselves out of the bottom three for the first time all season.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Eliott 7, Janmaat 6 (Lascelles n/a), Mbemba 7, Coloccini 7, Dummett 7, Sissoko 6, ANITA 8, Tiote 6 (de Jong 3), Wijnaldum 7, Perez 6, Mitrovic 5
Ref – East – 7 – I actually think he was alright, a bit lenient on them at times but was relatively sensible in a game that could have turned nasty
Our Fans – 7 – Backed the side well albeit with a notable amount of empty seats – never 47,000 there.
Their Fans – 8 – Best following they’ve had up here that I can remember(Ed: damning with feint praise)
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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