On word to describe this one – Bloodbath.
You may think that this is because 3 players ended up with gashes in their heads and wrapped in bandages, Shearer style, whilst another went off looking like he had no idea where he was. But no, I’m talking about the constant battle between Ayoze Perez and time on the ball.
Give this man no time to think and 1 touch, he’ll do something magical. However; give him space and a few touches of the
ball, he’ll inevitably fuck it up. It’s a constant battle and resulted in a display Kevin Nolan would have been proud of. 89 minutes of the usual offering nothing and 2-3 moments of brilliance. That’ll do at this level as long as he scores the goals and that he did on this occasion.
Injuries aside, this game followed the same format as most of it’s nature. The underdogs, right at the bottom of league 2, gave a spirited hard working performance for the first 30 minutes that made it feel like it was going to be a long old night, in spite of the strong team Newcastle fielded. We offered very little against their 11 behind the ball. Mitro & Perez up top brought back nightmares of many a game last season as the ball was hoofed forward and lost repeatedly. Aarons then stretchered off after 30 mins and the deja vu really began to set in. I mean, its getting ridiculous. If this was likely to happen again, why has the kid been given a huge contract?! Can only hope it’s not too serious but it didn’t look good as he was wheeled around the pitch to n indifferent ovation (once to many?)
As it turned out, this became the unexpected turning point in the game however as he undoubted man of the match came on in his place. Yoan Gouffran, off the back of 2 hard working performances in the league, brought a bit of cohesion into the team. He may not have the pace or flair of some of the others, but at least the guy knows how to play football properly. He was making all the right runs, passes and crosses and we started to look like a team capable of scoring with him on the pitch. With Aarons crocked, Gouff is the only other player after Ritchie capable of playing wide in the squad.
Mitro didn’t really get going at all before he became the first victim of a head injury, getting a rare touch of the ball whilst
defending a corner. Took a nasty bump which resulted in him coming off, presumably concussed, around the 40 minute mark.
Gayle came on, further demonstrating Rafa’s desire to win this game, and 5 minutes later we nicked the goal just before half time. A cross in the box was cleared badly to Perez at edge of the box, and given no time to think about how to fuck it up, he just pinged it into the top corner. Great goal. At this point Perez had been kicked in the head and was the first to don the ‘Shearer’ bandage around his head before scoring.
To be honest from that point it was over as a contest. Cheltenham tried hard but they’re just not very good at all. It then became a farcical game of who can get the most head injuries. Shortly into the second half, Gayle pounced on a shite back pass from the Cheltenham right back and was one on one with the keeper. Unselfishly he elected to roll the ball to his left for Perez to tap in for his second. Mitrovic would not have passed that ball in a million years.
Moments later, Gayle again, smashed into a Cheltenham defender and the pair of them appeared to be bleeding from the heed. 2 more bandages and the Cheltenham penalty area looked like Casualty at the RVI on a Saturday night. Gayle was hastily removed from the pitch by Rafa, suspected of another case of concussion.
Anita on and we played out the game comfortably. As mentioned already, Gouffran was a bright spark with some great
touches and runs. Diamé is also worthy of a mention. He still doesn’t look fully fit but he was working hard and running forward with the ball more and we are starting to see what he can offer. Give him a few more weeks and I think he’s going to be a huge part of our season. The shuffled back 4 was fairly good but under no real threat. I thought Darlow had a solid game and is worthy of consideration if Seltz does not start to settle.
It was also nice to see Jesus get his first run out in the back and white. Took a while to get going but he certainly looks good enough to fill Paul Dummett’s shoes, as hard as that will be…….. In fact, I know I have been critical of Perez, given he scored the goals, but I did enjoy a couple of occasions on the left where there was some wonderful link up between him and Jesus that was reminiscent of the Spanish connection in 2010 with Jose and Jonas. More of that please!
Alas, no more goals, I thought Gouff deserved one but it wasn’t to be. This was a comfortable victory in the end against a vastly inferior opposition. Nobody played terribly, nobody played brilliantly. That said, we have to remember that these victories have been in short supply in recent years so it was refreshing. We can look forward to the third round draw with a genuine optimism, no matter who we play, because we have Rafa… and he’s brilliant.
Newcastle United: Darlow 7; Sterry 6, Hanley 7, Lascalles 7, Gamez 7; Aarons 6 (GOUFFRAN 8) , Colback 7, Shelvey 7, Perez 7, Diamé 7, Mitro 5 (Gayle 7) (Anita 6) .
Subs not used: Mbemba, Seltz, Harden, Dummett
Ref: Steve Martin 6 – Gave nowt to either team. No cards. Could have gotten dangerous.
Our Fans: 6. Noisy bairns in the corner as is to be expected at these ones but the attendance was disappointing for any game with Rafa in charge.
Their Fans: 7. Fair bit of noise from their 450 odd. Especially when 2-0 down. That’s what it’s all about.
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