United failed to provide any Christmas cheer as we succumbed to a physical but superior Wednesday side in front of a full house on a chilly Boxing Day night. Colback came in for the suspended Shelvey and the errant midfielder was a miss all night as we struggled to gain any cohesion against the visiting Owls.
Early signs were fairly promising and we produced our best chance of the game inside the opening periods when Gayle lashed a shot against the bar and Wednesday scrambled away an effort off their line but they quickly got a hold on the game, with everything going through Bannan in the middle. There was a taste of things to come with some cynical and some outright dirty challenges , with Forestiere somehow evading a yellow despite a string of fouls but that is not to take away from some flowing moves that could have seen them go ahead in the first half.
We had Darlow to thank for keeping us in the game when he somehow managed to tip over a fizzer from Forestiere at close range after a quick break and Palmer had another golden opportunity for them when he got in behind Dummett but blazed over when a square ball would surely have led to the opener. For our part, we had decent possession but too often looked either toothless in the middle or unable to hit a decent ball from out wide – Gouffran and Ritchie having two distinctly off days.
The second half was more of the same as Wednesday again enjoyed the better of the play and again, only a fantastic display from Darlow kept us in it. He matched his heroics of the first half when he pulled off a great stop, spreading himself to prevent Fletcher after the ex-Mackem had been played in from a ball from the right, looking a certainty to score from ten yards out. The keeper was finally beaten ten minutes into the second period though despite initially parrying a point blank header from a corner, the rebound falling back to Loovens to head home. We looked susceptible to corners and balls into the box all night and the two centre backs both had games to forget.
Rafa reacted by bringing Atsu on for Gouffran and the Ghanaian almost pulled us back into it but his dipping shot was palmed over by Westwood. Perez entered the fray for the awful Diame, but made next to no impact and although Wednesday sat back on their lead, we were incapable of making any impression on their defence. The crowd’s shackles were lifted by a shocking tackle by ex-Mackem number 2, Ross Wallace which should have seen him walking after Anita was scythed down and Mitrovic was thrown on as a last throw of the dice but even the more direct approach didn’t really see the Wednesday defence break sweat.
In the end, we got the result our performance deserved although credit should go to Wednesday, who along with Huddersfield were the two best sides we’ve seen this season in my opinion and we chalked up our fourth home loss of the season – we never thought we’d ever say this, but it’s our outstanding away form that has us where we are in the table. We looked laboured tonight in Shelvey’s absence but on the basis of the circus show at the City Ground at the beginning of the month, we couldn’t have a better opportunity to put things right with an indignant home crowd and a distinctly average opposition coming to town.
There’ll no doubt be countless conversations about the man that was missing for us tonight, but we’ve got another four games to get through in his absence and with all of the teams in the play off spots also winning today, we’ve got no time to feel sorry for ourselves.
Keep the Faith
Newcastle United – DARLOW 9, Anita 6, Clark 5, Lascelles 5, Dummett 5, Ritchie 4, Colback 4 (Mitrovic n/a), Hayden 5, Gouffran 4 (Atsu 6), Diame 4 (Perez 4), Gayle 4
Ref – Tierney – 3 – Never felt that he really had control of the game at any point
Our Fans – 6 – Noisy at first, tailed off with the team
Their Fans – 9 – Excellent away following.
GARETH HARRISON – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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