United made the trip to Ibrox to conclude the third and last visit north of the border this season after previous successes over Motherwell and St. Mirren. Prior to kick-off, many Mags gathered in the noisy but brilliantly welcome Louden Tavern, the self proclaimed ‘Premier Rangers Supporters Club’. After the news the previous day earlier that Loic Remy had signed, positivity and optimism had crept anxiously into my thoughts. And so when a local Gers fan showed me the two line-ups on his phone, this had all the hallmarks of a friendly thrashing. Indeed it was almost refreshing to hear another club’s supporters despising their own board and running of the club even more so than ourselves.
Inside Ibrox and Pardew began with a team that could be expected to start away at City in just under a fortnight. Starting in the new home kit, albeit with blue socks to avoid a supposed kit clash, that confidence was soon dismantled. Rangers began the brighter when Clark burst into the box before being clumsily fouled by Coloccini before Lee McCulloch easily dispatched past the returning Tim Krul. Amidst the crisis in which Ally McCoist is facing up there, his team looked settled and played neat football, causing Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye to be chasing shadows at times in the first half.
United did improve marginally throughout the half when Santon, Cabaye and Ben Arfa all had shots but none tested the ‘keeper. The contest did heat up in the 41st minute when Moussa Sissoko reacted angrily to a late challenge on him which in turn wound up the home support and he was roundly booed every time he received the ball. The biggest cheer however from the travelling Mags came when Mackem assassin, Ryan Taylor was spotted among the away support.
In the second half, Krul made way for Elliot and Gouffran replaced the enigmatic Ben Arfa with United still resorting to playing mostly long balls up to the uninspiring Cisse, who quickly showed fans he hasn’t forgotten how to test a linesman’s flag over the summer. With United looking disjointed and clueless, Paul Dummett and Sylvain Marveaux entered the fray on 63 minutes replacing Santon and Sissoko respectively and an improvement followed. The Frenchman looked comfortable on the ball and actually threatened the final third whilst the impressive Dummett often bust a gut to get up and down the left flank. Mathieu Debuchy blazed over a good chance, cue cries from the home fans of, ‘Premier League, you’re having a laugh!’
Yanga-Mbiwa, Anita, Gosling and the Ameobi bros got a chance to stretch their legs and once more it proved that the substitutes offered more than the individuals that started. Within this last twenty minutes of play United finally built up some sustained pressure in the Rangers half with a Shola header too soft and a Gouffran chance placed over and offside. Dan Gosling also looked busy as he had done in Paisley last week and fired an effort across goal but for nobody to be there to turn it in.
Within the dying moments of the match, every Rangers touch was greeted with an ‘oleh’ from the home crowd of 18,000 before an amusingly miss-placed pass allowed Sammy Ameobi to play in his older brother Shola who delicately chipped the ball over the advancing Bell to notch his fourth goal of pre-season. The celebrations from the away end was one of relief rather than jubilation as United narrowly avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat against inferior opposition.
It is worthwhile remembering that this was a pre-season friendly and hopefully more signings can be made before the big kick-off on the 19th August. What was evident in Glasgow is that no matter how many strikers JFK manages to “get over the line”, there is no point unless somebody in the middle of the park can control the game and show a bit of creativity and flair. Renditions of ‘Don’t sell Cabaye’ were aired on numerous occasions but the lad has some way to go before any big clubs offer the figures being mooted in the press. United face Braga at St. James’ Park this Saturday and hopefully there will be far more for the Geordie faithful to enjoy than those who made this trip did.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul (Rob Elliot 46), Mathieu Debuchy, Davide Santon (Paul Dummett 63), Fabricio Coloccini (Mbwia Yanga-Mbiwa 73),
Steven Taylor, Moussa Sissoko (Sylvain Marveaux 63), Chieck Tiote (Anita 73), Jonas Gutierrez (Sammy Ameobi 80), Yohan Cabaye (Danny Gosling 80), Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 73), Hatem Ben Arfa (Yoan Gouffran 46).
Travelling fans – approximately 1,500 and accommodating Ryan Taylor within the ranks. Support to team initially good before fizzling out into frustration and concern.