MATCH REPORT St Mirren Park, 30/Jul/13, KO:7.30:
Judging the relative merits and flaws in a side from a pre-season friendly is always tricky business, especially as they are often extremely disjointed matches. The main appeal here for me was to see the two sides I support square up against each other, although pre-season performances from both sides have done little to stir excitement around either club. Whilst the first half of this away trip to Paisley showed moments of quality, the game became something of a non-event in the second half.
The main talking point before the match was the return of Papiss Cisse to the starting eleven, alongside a chunky looking Hatem Ben Arfa. Whilst his lack of match sharpness showed as the game progressed, the quality he adds to the side was clear to see.
After an easy going first twenty minutes, with Newcastle looking extremely comfortable in possession against their SP(F)L opponents, Cisse provided a concise finish to a nice team move to put Newcastle one up. Credit must also go to Sammy Ameobi who, although frustrating to watch at times, provided an inch perfect through ball to send Cisse through. This was a high point in the match for Sammy, as although he shows occasional flashes of brilliant skill, there is all too often no end product to speak of.
With the difference in stature of the sides becoming increasingly evident as the half progressed Newcastle made it 2 – 0 after a woeful looking attempt by Buddies captain Jim Goodwin to catch Debuchy offside let our right back through for an easy finish. Although never seeming to exert themselves too heavily, Newcastle looked likely to increase their lead, with on loan Swansea keeper David Cornell keeping Saints in the match. Either side of half time Dan Gosling came close to scoring with a pair of headed opportunities, and then finding himself agonisingly close to tapping in a Sammy Ameobi cross. Goslings frustration was clear, seeming desperate to get himself a goal, but he can at least be content with a more active performance than we have seen from him in the past.
The only half time substitution saw Debuchy replaced by Santon at right back, with Paul Dummett remaining at left back for the full match, perhaps indicating the progress he has made since being on loan at Saints last year – and of course being part of the buddies glorious league cup win. The second half faded out as the usual succession of changes disrupted any flow that was left in the game. Of those who came on Vuckic again looked strong, and Adam Campbell and Gouffran provided a bit of pace that was lacking from an unfit looking Ben Arfa. Late cameo appearances for Remi Streete and Mike Williamson only aided in giving Saints their best chances of the match, whilst Vurnon Anita provided some excellent passes to try and carve out another chance for Newcatle, all ultimately in vain. There was of course a run out for Conor Newton, another returning hero in Paisley after scoring the winning goal in the aforementioned League Cup final, which at least served to get the saints fans singing briefly.
Whilst Pardew and co will likely see this as a successful run out, with Cisse and Ben Arfa getting some clearly needed match time, the result answers no questions with regards to how we are progressing. It must be noted that this St. Mirren side have conceded four goals against Charlton, Queen of the South and Morton in pre-season, only a scrappy 1 – 0 victory against non-league Stockport providing any glimmers of progress. With that in mind it is probably the St. Mirren supporter in me that is more satisfied, with this providing a much more respectable scoreline than many would have hoped for. The match was perhaps best summed up by a Buddie in the pub post-match: “The gulf in class was not there to see. And Cheick Tiote has got weird legs.”
Newcastle United: Rob Elliot 6 (Jak Alnwick 65, 6), Mathieu Debuchy 7 (Davide Santon 46, 6), Fabricio Collocini 6 (Mike Williamson 85, n/a), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa 7 (Remi Streete, 85, n/a), Paul Dummett 7, Chieck Tiote 5 (Conor Newton 73, 6), Hatem Ben Arfa 5 (Haris Vuckic 65, 6), Sammy Ameobi 6, Dan Gosling 6 (Yoan Gouffran 65, 5), Vurnon ANITA 7, Papiss Cisse 6 (Adam Campbell 65, 6)
Home Fans: Disappointingly quiet considering the pretty good attendance (at least on a par with attendance at league games). Less noisy atmosphere possibly due to number of families and neutrals there.
Newcastle Fans: Good numbers off the back of a trip to Blackpool, in good voice in the first half but faded as the match provided very little to sing about.