United put in a disjointed performance to lose top spot going into our three vital away games, but in the end gained a point to keep the five point gap to Huddersfield in third intact. Perez and Atsu were both handed starts, with Goufrann and Diame dropping to the bench but it was the visitors who very much took the initiative in a dreadful first half for us.
City took the lead with just ten minutes on the clock in dubious circumstances. O’Neil swung a cross over that found Wilbraham totally unmarked in the centre, but he also looked distinctly offside as he steered his header past Darlow into the far corner. The linesman on the Milburn touchline was guilty of a few poor decisions today and although I’ve not seen the replay yet, from where I sit in the East Stand he looked well off. If the goal should have woken United from their slumbers, it didn’t have the desire effect and we were guilty of some sloppy play both at the back and through the middle, where Colback was crap again, whilst up front Mitrovic looked knackered after about five minutes.
The Robins doubled their lead on 20 minutes in farcical circumstances when a nothing ball played over the top saw Darlow racing from his line only for Dummett to cushion a header back to him that bypassed the keeper, leaving Cotterill with an open net to play the ball into. It was a shocking error and ordinarily I would argue who the blame should fall to, but given the similar circumstances that surrounded Clark’s own goal against QPR and the goal he conceded down at Norwich, I’m going to point the finger at our keeper. The evidence against him weighed up shortly after the goal when he again came haring off his line for a ball that he was never going to get and was lucky to see it cleared in time.
City continued to have the better of the half and some poor play by Yedlin gifted them with an opportunity on the edge of the box that was curled into Darlow’s arms. At the other end, we created next to nothing and half time couldn’t come quick enough, although we spent it debating where on earth we were going to get a goal from.
There didn’t seem to be answer to that question in the first 15 minutes of the half either before we dragged ourselves back into it on the hour. Colback was mercifully withdrawn for Diame, who although not a holding midfielder, gave the team a bit more balance and forward momentum and shortly after the change, Atsu got down the line and put over a teasing ball across the box that Shelvey got on the end of to bundle home despite the attempts of their defender to hack it off the line. Not the prettiest of goals, but a great piece of work by Atsu, who was our best player on the day, putting over a number of excellent crosses that deserved someone better than the lumbering Mitrovic on the end of them, or not as the case may be. City started to visibly tire after the goal and in truth we battered them for the final half hour. Ritchie came close with an effort from the edge of the box and Mitrovic headed over when free in the box from a corner when he should have scored. We did have a fright too at the other end when Darlow could only palm Cotterill’s free kick and was grateful to see Lascelles hack away the rebound.
Atsu almost levelled, cutting inside and flashing a shot across the face of the goal and just wide but we finally got our equaliser with ten minutes to go. Again, it was a scrappy goal, Clark getting up from the back to get his head to a cross that went in off one of their defenders on the way into the net. We threw everything forward at them to try and get the winner but the closest we came was Shelvey taking a quick corner with Atsu and flashing his shot across the goal when the slightest touch would have diverted it in.
Based on our first half performance, I suppose it had to count as a point gained and news of Barnsley’s equaliser against Huddersfield (the stadium announcer called it as 2-1 to Barnsley at the final whistle!) gave the result a bit more gloss. That said, there were a few worrying signs starting to show. Darlow has picked a bad time to go on a run of bad form, Colback and Mitrovic are vastly inferior to the two players they are replacing in the side, Perez doesn’t look up to it often enough in this league and I’m not quite sure why Murphy was signed if it wasn’t for situations like the last half hour of this game?
I’d still maintain that 4 points from the next three games would be sufficient, so long as the defeat didn’t come against Huddersfield. We’ll certainly have to play a lot better than this to get anywhere near that though.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Darlow 3, Yedlin 5, Clark 6, Lascelles 6, Dummett 4, Ritchie 7, Colback 3 (Diame 6), Shelvey 6, ATSU 8, Perez 4 (Gouffran 5), Mitrovic 3
Ref – Kavanagh – 5 – Not as bad as some we’ve had but did nowt to stop their timewasting. Again, his linesmen were shite
Our Fans – 6 – The Gallowgate corner stuck with them throughout but there were some audible boos at half time – some of it possibly directed at the officials
Their Fans – 6 – Brought a good following but didn’t hear too much from them
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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