The scoreline will show another defeat but for the second 45 minutes at least we saw a dramatic improvement in performance and effort against a decent Arsenal side that we had wobbling at times. Despite the talk of us only having thirteen fit players, in all honesty the starting line-up wasn’t too unfamiliar, albeit the positions were. Perez thankfully came back for the insipid Riviere, Cabella and Anita were back in the midfield and Colback slotted back into left back and everyone I spoke to before the match felt clear that we were on for a humping.
The opening quarter didn’t really follow that fear though and we looked lively early on, with Sammy in particular showing a will to try and get past Chambers every time he got the ball, with Ayoze looking his usual dangerous self. We fashioned a couple of half chances but Arsenal too looked dangerous as they worked around our defence on a number of occasions with some intricate passing with Wellbeck spurning their best chance before they went ahead just after the 20 minute point. It was a shite goal to concede as well with some poor defending from a Carzola free kick ending up with Giroud kneeing the ball past Krul. If we’d been slightly undeserving of being behind at that point, when Arsenal doubled their lead just a few minutes later, the game was in threat of running away from us badly.
Their second was no better, again Giroud was the benificiary of some powder puff defending as he simply held off Williamson to head home virtually unchallenged from a Carzola corner. The Frenchman looked too much for us in the first half and Williamson especially looked shit scared of him and the second goal led to a ten minute spell where they could easily have notched another three as they played round us as if we weren’t there. We managed to weather the storm to ‘only’ go in two down but it was difficult to see anything other than a chastening defeat at the break, so the second half was a welcome surprise.
Driven on in the early part of the half by Sissoko, we got back into the game just four minutes after the break with a lovely goal. Ryan Taylor fed the excellent Cabella, who pulled back into the path of the onrushing captain who steered a lovely half volley past Ospina. Suddenly we had a bit of hope and there’s always an opportunity to test out the brittleness of Arsenal when you get a blow in against them but we just couldn’t get the leveller when we were on top. Perez attempted a marvellous curling shot which just went wide of the far post – he’s had a few of the identical efforts this season and any one of them would have been a goal of the season effort (well an NUFC one anyway) had it sneaked in.
Janmaat lashed a long range effort which just flashed wide and Sissoko connected to a Williamson header only to flick his effort into Ospina’s hands. For me, our best chance to equalise fell to the perpetually awful Gouffran who managed to sidefoot a meek effort straight at Ospina from no more than eight yards out when under no challenge in the aftermath of a penalty appeal. On another day, we could have scored from any of those chances and our ability to convert any of them cost us what would have been a deserved point.
The introduction of Jonas for Anita (shite) brought us another spark and I’ve been impressed by him since his return – he certainly gave more than the nugget he replaced and a jinking run in the box and fizzed pullback almost fashioned an equaliser for us. We had another decent chance when Perez flashed a shot in which took two deflections before landing fortuitously at the trailing leg of Ospina who was diving the wrong way – fine margins and all that. In the end though, we started to run out of steam and despite a valiant effort, we again finished pointless.
It’s strange, I think a lot of people walked away almost happy with what they’d seen. Now, for me, you should never be pleased with getting beat but given some of the dross we’ve churned out of late, the team deserved a lot of credit for making a real fist of it in the second half when we could/should have been dead and buried. There was major encouragement for me in the performance of Cabella and Janmaat looked the class act that he undoubtedly is, even at centre half. No-one needs telling what our next game is and we’ve got a real chance for some proper revenge this time, when we could give them a major shove towards the Championship.
If we play like we did in the second half, I believe we’ll beat them, if we play like we did in the first half we’ll get beat. For me, our fate will rest in the ability of Sissoko to get a hold of the middle of the park but I’ll not predict owt after the last four outings. They fucking owe us one though…..
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Krul 6, R Taylor 7, Williamson 6, JANMAAT 8, Colback 7, Anita 4, Sissoko 7, Sammy 7, Gouffran 3, Cabella 8, Perez 7
Ref – Jones – 8 – Thought he reffed it very sensibly, no yellow cards and kept a dialogue with the players
Our Fans – 7 – Recognised the effort
Their Fans – 7 – Always had a good travelling support
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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