So come on then, how many of you wandered away from SJP at ten to five today muttering ‘F***in’ typical NUFC’? After the good times rolled at Loftus Road in midweek, we came back to earth with a bump against a well organised and superior Wolves team. Rafa made three changes from the thumping we dished out in the capital, with Mbemba, Diame and Gayle coming back into the side but we turned in by far our poorest performance of the season to end up with a deserved defeat.
We were never really in the hunt from the word go and should have fallen behind inside ten minutes. Wolves broke on the counter attack and all of a sudden we were left with one defender facing three of their players, but they seemed to have missed a golden opportunity to square a ball to a striker with an open net. We failed to clear the ball though and Bodvarsson found himself with a clear sight at goal but he crashed his shot off the bar with Sels beaten to give us a real let off.
Our best spell of the game followed that scare and Ritchie put a couple of dangerous balls into the box before probably our best chance of the game saw Perez direct a whipped cross back across the goal, pulling a fantastic save from Ikeme in the visitors goal. Just as it looked like we were getting on top in the match though, we shot ourselves squarely in the foot with a ridiculous own goal from Mbemba, who frankly had a nightmare all afternoon. Bodvarsson knocked a hopeful looking ball into the box and under no obvious pressure, Mbemba bulleted a diving header past the hapless Sels into the bottom corner. There was clearly no shout from the keeper, who has had a mixed start to his United career, but what exactly was Mbemba doing? A real shocker.
The goal saw us run around like headless chickens for the rest of the half, with Shelvey pinging aimless thirty yard balls, whilst the absolutely abysmal Diame failed to show himself for any forward pass. Not for the first time, the Senegalese was completely absent and I’d rank him along with Sels as the new boy with the ‘most to prove’ based on his early showings. How he managed 90 minutes is anyone’s guess.
The second half was as bad, if not worse than the first. We were flat and lacking in ideas and it was by no means against the run of play when Wolves doubled their lead on the hour. It was another awful goal to concede. Perez basically gave up after giving the ball away to the onrushing Costa, who should be credited with a lovely finish, curling past Sels from the edge of the box although arguably the keeper could have done more. The little Spaniard seemed to go to cock entirely from that point on and appeared to simply give up the chase on a couple of occasions. I do think very highly of Perez but a) he’s never a winger and b) I’m not blind to the fact that his attitude can be a bit iffy when everything isn’t clicking into place.
We brought Mitrovic and Atsu on and the latter almost got on the end of a fantastic Shelvey ball into the box, reacting just too late to pick the pass up. The former should really have reduced the deficit himself when played through but Ikeme got off his line smartly to block the Serb’s side-footed effort from the edge of the box. A quicker striker would have taken it on and around the keeper mind. The icing on the cake to a terrible afternoon came when probably our best performer of a bad bunch saw himself red carded.
There couldn’t be many arguments that Anita’s foul was a yellow but a sending off looked very harsh and despite his many limitations, he’s been one of our best players this season and will be a miss.
So glass half full or glass half empty?
In terms of the table, the loss hasn’t made much difference and we still sit in a strong position in third. I don’t believe that Huddersfield are actual promotion rivals so I only see Norwich of the ‘serious’ challengers ahead of us and their visit here in the next fortnight as big a game as we’ll play in this division and the positives have outweighed the negatives this campaign. That said, we’ve lost three games in the first month or so of the season and turned in two dreadful performances in our opening four home league games. I’m sure we’ll be fine but we can’t carry on at that ration for the rest of the season. Maybe we just don’t like the sunshine on Barrack Road, who knows?
This time in a fortnight we could be in the automatic promotion spots and in the latter stages of the League Cup, but we will have to up our game dramatically on today if we’re not to suffer a second defeat in three days from today’s opponents.
Newcastle United – Sels 3, ANITA 5, Mbemba 2, Lascelles 4, Dummett 2, Hayden 4, Shelvey 4, Ritchie 5, Diame 1, Perez 2, Gayle 2
Our Fans – 6 – As ever, a fantastic turnout but as ever, there’s a sizeable minority quick to get on the team’s back.
Their Fans – 9 – Excellent. Noisy, plentiful, ‘proper’ club.
Keep the Faith
GARETH HARRISION – Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892
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This week, we recorded a Podcast covering the recent meetings we’ve had with Rafa Benitez. Wallace Wilson, Alex Hurst and I met and reflected on some marathon meetings with one of the best coaches in the world and the man whom is transforming Newcastle United.
You can get at the Podcast by clicking here
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