And so to the latest abomination in the life of Newcastle United under Mike and Alan. For the third season running, we lost at home to our biggest rivals, for the third season in a row we failed to score and for the umpteenth time in a row we failed to perform in a ‘must win’ game under our smarmy, bullshitting boss. Steven Taylor thankfully returned to the starting line up ahead of Williamson, with Janmaat and Sammy also returning to the side after the pathetic capitulation in our other big game this week, whilst to the delight of absolutely no-one whatsoever, Yoan Gouffran maintained his place in the side.
We started the match on the front foot and had arguably our best period of the half in the first five to ten minutes. Sunderland earned the first booking of the game and we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box very early on and if there was an omen for what was to come in terms of our goal threat, Colback and Dummett lined over the ball, with the latter firing it well over. Paul Dummett taking a direct free kick in a dangerous position? Is that the extent of our dead ball threat? Jesus.
The half turned into a relatively scrappy affair, low on quality but high on bookings with Coloccini, Tiote and Colback all deservedly going into the book along with Wickham for them but with neither side gaining any real foothold in the game. Perez had probably our best chance, created as the bulk of the poor buggers are out of scraps as he wriggled an opening at the corner of the eighteen yard box and curled his effort just wide of the far post with Pantillimon beaten – not too dissimilar from his near miss after just coming off the bench on his debut against Man City. Sissoko worked his way into the box at the end of a strong run but could only fluff his shot at the end and as per usual, our corners resulted in no threat and the bulk of our approach play involved firing aimless long balls up to Perez, much to the glee of Brown and O’Shea.
At the other end, they really should have taken the lead when Wickham was picked out at the back post but somehow managed to put a downward header over the bar from about two yards out. In goal, Alnwick was relatively confident with the high balls that they targeted into the box and other than fearing potentially losing a man or two in the second half at the hands of the referee, we went in at the break if not happy then at least relatively comfortable.
The second half settled into a similar pattern and only really sprang into life after a horrible looking collision between Taylor’s head and the post as he bravely cleared a teasing cross from the line with Fletcher bearing down on him. The immediate concern of the players around him hinted at a serious injury but after some treatment in the net, he was rushed off the field to receive stitches. Frankly, if he was seriously concussed, seeing double and unable to run in a straight line, he would have been a much more favourable option than Williamson coming off the bench, but he returned within a couple of minutes. In the time he was off the pitch though, they should really have taken the lead. We were dispossessed in midfield and they broke, taking advantage of the extra man to tee Gomez up with the whole goal to aim at from ten yards out but he somehow sidefooted the ball well wide. A real let off.
With over half an hour left and with Cisse sat on the bench, Pardew took the absolutely unfathomable decision to bring Armstrong on for Gouffran. This is not a slight at Armstrong, who is just a bairn but why choose the derby to give him a half hour run out in the league when you have never opted to do that before and when the kid is half the size of their two centre halves who you plan to keep treating to long balls? An absolutely shocking decision and typical of the man – Gouffran should never be anywhere near the first team yet he continues to play him despite all of the evidence to the contrary. What is it he likes so much about him? His wife?
He then hooked the equally awful Tiote for Cisse, leaving our shape all over the place, going from a five man midfield down to a three in the matter of fifteen minutes and giving Sunderland, who I would argue had settled for a point on 70 minutes, holes to pick through all of a sudden. We did nearly take the lead ourselves though when Perez, again, worked himself an angle and bent a fine effort that Pantillimon did well to claw away from the top corner.
Again, they broke through us though and when Johnson cut inside Coloccini in the box, he looked odds on to score but rolled his effort wide of the far post. Cabella then came on inexplicably with two minutes to go for the woeful Sammy Ameobi to disjoint the balance of the team even further. Why has Pardew lashed out the third highest transfer fee in our history on Cabella and then started him in less than half of our games? What is the point in bringing him on for a couple of minutes at the end of the game for a lad who in all honesty could have been hooked half an hour earlier? Where is the examination of Pardew and the scouting team in squandering what for us is a large sum of money on Cabella?
With our last chance of the game, Sissoko lined up a well struck shot from the edge of the box but Pantillimon was equal to it and their winner, when it came was a sickener coming as it did in the 90th minute. Yet again, we were pulled to pieces through the middle and they were able to comfortably work a series of passes in the box for Johnson to stab past Alnwick. He celebrated in front of our fans with Larsson, who is an utter cunt by the way milking the celebrations for all they were worth. I couldn’t even bear to glance across at their fans – a last minute winner on the back of the last two seasons, it doesn’t get much better for them really does it? There was still time for Larsson to fluff an absolute sitter towards the end and the final whistle went to stunned silence from all but the travelling support.
I’ve read a few reports and heard a few conversations after the game that seem to reckon we were in some way unlucky here? Certainly they didn’t dominate the game in the way they did last season’s and we had the majority of the possession but while we were debatably worth a goalless draw, we certainly deserved no more than that and I can think of five clear chances that they had in the game, all of which should arguably have been converted to our (at best) one or two.
I can barely muster anything new to say towards my feelings for Pardew. He was outdone here by a tactically stronger manager, playing with slightly more limited resources and to set the team up, at home in a derby with one up front speaks volumes of his ‘philosophy’. Nothing he promises ever comes true, we can’t believe a word he says and he never ever delivers when we need him to. Wins like Chelsea are a bonus, they’re not really ‘big games’ for us and the performances over the past eight days sum the man up – lost all three, conceded nine, out of the cup, beaten at home to the Mackems, same old approach, same tactics, same old Pardew. Why don’t you just go and fuck right off, eh Alan? No-one but no-one that I speak to whose opinion about Newcastle United I respect wants you here, no-one likes you and whilst the media might have you believe that you have in some way ‘won the fans over’, you haven’t. Bring on the next gimp to work under Ashley, it can’t get any worse.
Newcastle United – Alnwick 6, Janmaat 6, Coloccini 5, S Taylor 6, Dummett 6, Gouffran 4 (Armstrong 5), Sissoko 6, Colback 6, Tiote 5 (Cisse 5), Sammy 3 (Cabella n/a), PEREZ 7
Ref – Taylor – 6 – Some blatant bookings went unpunished and a couple of the cards were harsh but overall I didn’t think he was that bad
Our Fans – 7 – Supported the side throughout until the horrible deflation at the death
Their Fans – 7 – Not as noisy as the past two years, but then they were running riot in those games – credit for the applause
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth at @truefaith1892