United let slip an excellent win and a more than handy 3points as Leeds scored a wholly undeserved equaliser in the final moments of an absorbing encounter to put a real dampener on proceedings. The result gives encouragement to a chasing Huddersfield.
Rafa’s team had turned in one of their most impressive performances of the calendar year and had played with real purpose and energy, quickly forgetting the disappointing performance in Sheffield last week. Shelvey and Ritchie in particular provided a creative edge to the team’s performance whilst Hayden’s athleticism was a huge asset . We look a poorer team without him in it.
Despite Leeds starting well and hitting the bar in the earlier parts of the game it was United who looked more
accomplished. The visitors were well within themselves with their large travelling support subdued for the vast majority of the game. I’d have thought they would have made more of an effort given this is the largest crowd they have been in for quite some time.
Aside from the early scare, Leeds rarely threatened the United goal and at the back we were were drilled with Mbemba’s performance an improvement on what he has put in since returning to the side. His communications with Darlow and the rest of the back-line looked to have been addressed on the training ground. Our full-backs Anita and Dummett pushed on and it all looked just a matter of time before we would translate our superiority into goals.
However, whilst, Green, the Leeds goalie had made a wonderful rick at Elland Road to afford us a vital goal in front of a gleeful travelling support, the former England man was in far improved form. He denied us with several outstanding saves from point-blank range. Critics might point out the attempts were straight down his throat but in the 67th minute the tide looked to have turned our way when Lascelles managed to get the ball over the line. There was anxiety in pockets of SJP that another set of dire officials might have missed it (as they did numerous Leeds’ offsides and allowed some agricultural challenges to go unpunished) but than God it stood.
If there was a weakness to our play it was up top where Perez, although better, failed to truly open the Yorkshire team up and Mitrovich frustrated with his lack of appetite to get off the ground to win headers, make sufficient runs or show anything of an instinct to be in the right place at the right time.
The substitution of Hayden reduced the effectiveness of the team and although there were harsh words for individuals at the end of the game as Wood found himself free in the box to score an undeserved equaliser, the truth is the whole team lacks a bit of leadership and experience. That ball should never have been in our half of the field at the time on the clock and many of us rued our inability to display a little of the cynical professionalism to get the game to the final whistle and keep the points on Barrack Road.
This now leaves us 8 points ahead of Huddersfield with four games to go and they have a game in hand. This result offers The Terriers encouragement but this is no time for players or fans to develop any kind of attack of the vapours. Everyone has to remain focused. Rafa has a job to do to get the players over the disappointment of this result as we travel to Ipswich on Monday. We have to go there on Monday and win. To do that we’ll have to stop making unforced errors and rediscover the discipline we have had for much of this season. Game management is the new patter.
A return of Hayden , Clark and Yedlin to the first team pool would be a massive boost. I can’t be the only one who would love to see Murphy come back into the team but Rafa is the one who knows what condition he is in and how ready he may or may not be to lead the United line at Portman Road.
Off the park, the often fretful and muted atmosphere of SJP this season was replaced with a real old school feel as the songs came tumbling down from every corner of the Gallowgate and even the Leazes got in on the act (gasp). Gallowgate Flags unfurled two new jumbo flags in the corners of the Gallowgate End and along with the We Are United surfer in the middle tier and hand-waver flags in the lower tiers, there was a real spectacle which got proceedings off on the right mood.
The reservations many had about the KO time on a Bank Holiday with Leeds in town appears to have been well-founded. There were reports of skirmishes around NE1 and a heavy, though yet stretched Police presence all over the city centre. It has been confirmed that the fat bum who invaded the pitch from the Gallowgate End was in fact a Leeds fan and his state of mind I’d guess had been affected by drinking all day on an empty head. He may have a sore face in the morning after the game as it appears several Gallowgate Enders landed well-aimed punches on a man whose life I’d suppose none of us would envy.
But back to the football! We look like we are crawling over the promotion line. Rafa is dealing with a team (last night aside) that look a little jaded and lack some experience and/or leadership. He has suffered injuries to some of his key players. He really could have done with some recruits in January particularly at central midfield and down the flanks. But Ashley decided to gamble we had enough. This is how it is with this clown!
Everyone has to stand-up now and fight and scrap for every point to get Newcastle United back to where it belongs.
It’s never easy with us is it?
Newcastle United: Karl Darlow (7), Vurnon Anita (7), Paul Dummett (6), Isaac Hayden (8) (Colback 79), Jamaal Lascelles (6), Chancel Mbemba (6), Jonjo Shelvey (7), Matt Ritchie (8) (Yedlin 84), Alexander Mitrovic (5), Ayoze Perez (5), (Diame 90), Yoan Gouffran (6).
Ref: Kavanagh (3) – another official I’d love to have not officiating our games next season.
Our Fans – (8) – stayed with the team the whole game and had enough about them at the FT whistle to recognise the big picture and applaud the team off. Great displays at the start and good volume throughout.
Their Fans – (5) – given numbers, disappointing. Extra marks for delusions of grandeur on Barrack Road – “you’ve only come to see Leeds United” and complete football ignorance “you’ve never won fuck all”. Well, just the four league titles, six FA Cups and Inter-Cities UEFA Cup. Leeds?
MICHAEL MARTIN – Follow Michael on @tfeditor1892
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