Well Boxing Day was a great big pile of turd and the only positive I can think of is that we have a game this week to put it right. Nottingham Forest roll into St James’ Park on Friday and there’s talk of revenge as United look to go back to the top of the division.
I’m not sure Rafa will be too fussed about revenge. Lansbury isn’t playing (not that he matters) and we can’t take revenge on the referee. Forest are bringing less than 1,500 (massive club, Forest, in case you didn’t know) tells you all you need to know about the respective size and direction of these two football clubs. The points are more important than ‘getting one over’ on a relegation threatened second division side who attract less than 20,000 people to home games. The away game was a farce of a performance from a referee who will likely never referee United again so there’s really nothing to be gained here other than three crucial points.
The most disappointing thing for me about Monday was the performance of our midfield two. Colback hasn’t played football in two months so I will excuse him. However Hayden showed a lack of ambition and ability which let the side down. Dwight Gayle gave up making his bending runs behind their back four in the second half. That was worrying. Shevely doesn’t always find Gayle with balls over the top but it pushes a team 10 yards back and bring Diame into the game looking for second balls etc. We played into Sheff Wed’s hands at every opportunity. Hayden is a good, young player. It’s interesting that he’s been speaking to the media this week. I think Rafa has made him front up, which is a good thing. We need more from him now than we ever have.
Our form is a problem. Not as a big a problem as many are trying to make out in desperate pleas for attention such as ‘we’re not good enough’ etc. I watch us home and away so I’ve seen first-hand that Rafa has built a superb side and that 49 points after 23 games is more than enough for promotion if replicated. Realistically, if we continue not to draw games, we can lose 14 games across the season (probably 15) and still go up (Imagine the fume). So it’s not the end of the world. I had someone on twitter arguing that my analysis of United’s points total was not ‘fantastic’ as I said, merely ‘very good’ he said. Newcastle United fans in 2016, there.
We face Forest and then Blackburn (18th and 22nd) as we did little less than a month ago. Zero points was a poor return so I’m confident we’ll go out and get six. Rafa thinks a lot of Brighton. They’re a machine, attuned to playing at this level for years. They’ll go up with us, they’re very good. They also lose a lot of money as a club. ‘Buying the league’ other fans at this level scream at us, but not Brighton for some reason, for whom promotion is financial necessity, not that we aren’t in the same boat. I’ll break from tradition here and say I’d like to see us play two upfront at home. I know it’s not Rafa’s style, and whilst we’re still miles ahead of the chasing pack (6 points at this stage of the season, is miles) he doesn’t need to change anything. Diame had a quiet game the other night but has performed well of late. Perez’s contributions continue to astound. I’ve no idea what’s happened to him. My point is that both of these players or Mitrovic can’t have been any worse playing alongside Gayle than behind him for home games.
Of course if the players on the pitch performed better and followed instructions better I’m sure this proposed changed would be pointless – the team need to do better at home. Play with more urgency, take more chances on the ball. After some great performances this season by Dummet and Anita, Monday was another game they showed they can offer very little going forwards at home. I though Anita was superb against Birmingham at home, so one bad game isn’t a disaster. The wingers looked bereft of service and the centre backs didn’t move the ball quick enough. I would like to see maybe Mbemba, Yedlin and Atsu come in for this one. We’ll see.
Forest have lost three and drawn one of the four games since we played them. They played well at Huddersfield on
Monday and were unlucky to win. Forest have only won twice away from home in back to back games in November and Ipswich and then Barnsley. We then played them at their place after those two wins. Away from home Forest have lost 8 of twelve and conceded 23. Almost two a game. Beatable is an understatement. Like most games though it’s more about what United can do than others cannot. I want to see a team take a few more risks, move the ball quicker and find Gayle whenever possible in the space behind their back four. That’d what we did against a handy Birmingham side and they couldn’t cope. More of the same on Friday – whenever Rafa’s team have been knocked down we’ve often recovered brilliantly.
More of the same on Friday.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
This is issue 128 of true faith, Newcastle United’s longest running and most popular fanzine. Since 1999 we have been providing the alternative view on life at Newcastle United and the world around it. true faith is put together by people who follow Newcastle United home and away, season ticket holders, match-goers and people who go when they can. true faith also has several contributors who are ex-pats and who follow United from afar. Since issue 112 we have been providing true faith in exclusively digital format after making the switch from hard-copy. Over the last couple of years the readership of the true faith has gone through the roof which has delighted us. true faith is excellent on any device but we really do recommend taking the fanzine on tablet or i-pad for even better results. We’re now offering true faith absolutely FREE of charge. No matter what time of day, no matter where you are in the world, you can get access to true faith absolutely FREE. From all of the people who put the fanzine together, we really do hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we did putting it together. Just click on the image below to get full and instant access FREE of charge.