It’s funny that tickets for this game, the one the mackems took such joy in rinsing us about in May, became the most sought after ticket of the season. My alarm went off at 7am, the night after my work Christmas party, to make sure I was ready for an early start for the three of us to head down to Burton. Two and a half hours later I was still sitting in my living room waiting for the lads, nackered, rough and a bit grumpy.
Thankfully Andy brought a McDonald’s brekky for me, the first in the triple crown of fast food to be consumed that day, and my spirits perked up for the short trip down to Burton upon Trent. There is nothing in Burton – one of the lads described it as an industrial estate outside Stoke which had grown – so we headed to a pub a few minutes away from the ground which had set up a mobile bar and catering stand just to accommodate us.
Pre match was fairly quiet. It’s hard for anyone to make any sort of atmosphere in a car park so we watched the second
half of the latest episode in Pards’ downfall and discussed team selection, unanimously agreeing Atsu should come in for the recently quiet Richie and Yedlin in for Anita.
Coming in to the ground was bizarre. I’ve never seen Newcastle play in such a small stadium and it just seemed a bit weird to see Gayle, Shelvey etc warming up in a stadium more similar to Whitley Bay than St James.
The younger lot of our fans will have been disappointed that there was no concourse to film each other singing on. The noise on the terrace though was excellent in the build up to kick off and for the first half an hour of the game – with the small seating section for toon fans to the left making plenty of noise too (where everyone was still standing up). There was a refreshing mix of songs including some old Christmas favourites (oh what fun it is to see Newcastle win away/hark now hear) and a serenade to Rafa to the tune of Last Christmas which we’ve stolen from Celtic/Man United.
Newcastle started the game brightly and should have taken the lead through Atsu early on, who dwelled on the ball inside
the box and allowed the keeper to close him down. A touch of class from Gayle right in front of our fans saw us deservedly take the lead. It’s mint celebrating on a terrace – it allows you to go much more mental. I can see why they don’t want terraces like that in the Premier League though, it’s disorganized and chaotic and at times infuriating when people are constantly pushing past you. Where do these people even go? How can it be necessary to leave the stand after ten minutes of the first half?
Conceding that terrible goal took the wind out of our sails both on and off the pitch. The players looked a bit dejected and the fans stopped singing almost completely. It didn’t last long though, with Diame turning then finishing brilliantly in the bottom right corner to show a flash of the talent that saw us sign him in the summer.
We saw it through fairly comfortably to half time and we wandered outside to go to the toilet. The toilet were a disgrace, nowhere near big enough to accommodate us which saw fans pissing in the sinks and on the floor – no good for anyone.
The second half was a backs to the wall job, with Burton taking advantage of their physical superiority and pinning us in our half for almost the entirety. A half chance for Gayle and what looked like a certain penalty on Richie (which will no doubt never be shown on any highlights) aside, we spent the entire half fending off Burton attacks. They only really looked like scoring once when their enormous striker blazed it high and wide from a well worked move down their left side.
A few solid saves from Darlow coupled with Burton subbing off their giant striker and biggest threat (no idea what they were playing at doing that) kept us ahead and the final whistle was welcomed by the travelling 1700 and a clearly nackeredplaying staff.
Another three away points and top at Christmas. Champion. Enjoyed Burton away.
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