Well if that doesn’t just sum Newcastle United up eh? Ground full, sun belting down, fantastic display of flags before the game, atmosphere great and then the match kicked off….
Benitez rang the changes after the opening day flop at Fulham with Mbemba, Shelvey, Aarons and Diame all coming into the starting line up but they failed to give us any sort of spark despite the fantastic early backing from the crowd. If the first two games have served any reminder, it is that the myth of the Championship being a kick and rush, up and at’em league is a fallacy as the visitors played the ball on the deck and we did the same to little effect. It’s basically the Premier League with worse strikers for me although saying that, our best chance early on was a lovely long ball crossed to the back post for Gayle, who should have done better than heading wide with the keeper stranded.
That said, it was Huddersfield who came closest in the opening exchanges when the lively looking Kachunga cut inside our defence and hit the foot of the post from a shot just inside the area, although Sels did look to have it covered. We didn’t heed the warning though and looked lopsided with Aarons swapping wings and Anita being constantly drawn into the middle leaving us lacking any width – that’s not really a criticism of him as there’s no way on God’s green earth that he is a winger mind. With the game heading towards half time and the support in danger of snoozing off in the sun, Huddersfield took the lead with what was an awful goal to concede defensively. Their full back was left unmarked to give him time to play a ball into the box, finding a similarly unhindered Wells who scuffed a shot into the bottom corner out of the reach of Sels.
We came out for the second half with Aarons replaced for Ritchie and presumably the substitute had been injured during the week as he once again showed great promise when he came on, providing much needed width and putting dangerous balls into the box – unfortunately with no-one capable of getting on the end of them. Gayle is struggling badly by himself up front – he doesn’t contribute enough as a lone striker to be played in that role and clearly needs to be playing off another striker. Whether that is going to be Mitrovic remains to be seen but I’d contend that we desperately need to buy another centre forward and quickly. When you think back to how Carroll bossed this league the last time we were down, I think it also needs to be someone with some physical presence and ideally a bit of pace – no easy task to find.
We were given a way back into the game on the hour and it was a gift, with their centre half blatantly and needlessly handballing a ball into the box. Thankfully, after Fulham it was spotted by the officials and Gayle stepped up to take the spot kick. His effort was woeful and straight at the keeper but luckily the rebound fell straight back to the striker and he duly nodded home past the stranded keeper for his first goal in a black and white shirt. I’d like to think he’ll come good with some proper support and service.
Still, the equaliser didn’t really spur us on and despite Perez coming on for Diame, who had barely kicked the ball all afternoon, Huddersfield looked comfortable in containing us as we were limited to a series of wildly optimistic long balls from Shelvey, who I thought was dreadful. Mind, I would temper that by the fact that every time he looked up, there didn’t seem to be anyone moving for him, culminating in him just spraying the ball anywhere and looking thoroughly pissed off with his lot.
The sucker punch came with just eight minutes remaining when a long ball caught us napping defensively having overcommitted to an attack. Mbemba was muscled off the ball out wide leaving Payne to finish low into the bottom corner past Sels. It was a good finish in the end by the Terriers man but another woeful goal to concede and in truth, we never looked like getting an equaliser as the game petered out to boos from a frustrated SJP crowd.
So, we’ve certainly had our wake up call and now it’s time to ermm…wake up. I’d be worried if there weren’t at least two additions to this starting line up ahead of the end of the transfer window, ideally earlier as we look toothless with the exception of Ritchie. There’s no time to be feeling sorry for ourselves in this division either with Reading up on Wednesday before two tricky looking games down in Bristol and then against one of the best sides in the league in Brighton. The match against the Royals is a real biggie for us now and defeat would take us from mild concern to out and out panic. Howay man United!
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – Sels 4, Janmaat 4 (Armstrong n/a), Mbemba 4, Lascelles 4, Dummett 4, Hayden 4, Shelvey 4, Anita 4, Aarons 4 (RITCHIE 6), Diame 3 (Perez 4), Gayle 4
Ref – Langford – 5 – Let some obvious yellow cards go and as my fatha pointed out, if it’s a yellow card, it’s a yellow card – it doesn’t matter what bloody division it’s in
Our Fans – 8 – Amazing turnout and the flags looked brilliant, congratulations to all concerned in organising them
Their Fans – 8 – Good numbers and very noisy after their goals
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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