The only real positive from our first half display was a looping header from geordie boy Andy Carrol, which went over after hitting the visitors' crossbar. Second half, Newcastle looked a different team, with Jonas Guttierez and Jose Enrique playing particularly well down our left flank. Damien Duff was booked for a dive when trying to win us a penalty, when just moments later Steven Taylor also dived, but won us a penalty. I for one had no complaints, as the un-fit Shola Ameobi blasted into the top right-hand corner to level the score.
From then on, both teams had chances, with geordie-born Michael Chopra blowing the best chance in the dying minutes. Why Chopra didn't shoot when clean through on goal is a mystery. Instead, he opted to square the ball for Jones, awfully, and the chance was gone. Perhaps his geordie roots got the better of him and he simply could not sink his former club. Overall, a draw was probably a fair result. However, if we cannot beat Sunderland at home, then who can we beat? Both teams on display here were poor and will no doubt be drifting around the lower region of the league come May.
Having said that, new boy Kevin Nolan, a Â£4million signing from relegation rivals Bolton Wanderer's, put in a fairly solid if unspectacular performance, whilst we do have several players returning from injury in the coming weeks. Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins and Alan Smith are all said to be ready to play on Saturday, when we play a simply 'must-win' match away at West Brom. I would expect Martins to start on Saturday alongside Andy Carrol, with Viduka and Smith being introduced in the latter stages due to their lengthy stays on the injury front.
Also, the transfer window proved to be fairly successful for us in my opinion. Incoming, we have signed Kevin Nolan (as mentioned), Peter Lovenkrands on a free transfer from Schalke 04 and promising England U21 international Ryan Taylor from Wigan Athletic. Outgoing, Charles Insomnia (N'Zogbia) joined Wigan Athletic for Â£6million as part of the Ryan Taylor transfer (Taylor costing Â£1million as part of an exchange deal), whilst Toon legend Shay Given joined Manchester City for a fee thought to be in the region of Â£6-8million.
Whilst I, amongst many others, am highly disappointed at Given's departure, I do feel that we have a good replacement between the sticks in Steve Harper, who has been at the club since 1993. It is obvious Shay was becoming disillusioned with life in the North East, due to the instability at the club, whilst a player of his calibre will no doubt want to win things, something that he would be not be doing any time soon at Newcastle United, it is safe to say.
Elsewhere, it was a shame that we failed in our bid to sign Miguel Veloso from Sporting Lisbon, whilst it was also disappointing that Michael Johnson apparently failed a medical after Man City reportedly accepted our bid of Â£8million.
Also, the ongoing transfers of Rennes' Stephane M'bia and Albin Ebondo from Toulouse never materialized and neither did the rumoured attempts at signing Fiorentina's Marco Donadel, Real Madrid's out of favour striker Saviola and Coventry City's young left-back Daniel Fox. These are all players that would have strengthened our squad and we can only hope that perhaps one or two of them join us in the summer, providing we are still in the Premiership, that is.
So in terms of numbers, we are one player better off after a frustrating January transfer window. Assuming that we can keep players fit between now and May, I feel the likes of Viduka, Martins, Nolan, Taylor (Ryan), Guttierez and Owen will provide the quality we desperately need to survive relegation this season.
Assuming that we do stay up, we will have funds in the summer from our January sales to invest in a couple of quality players like Veloso and Johnson, perhaps.
Also, on a final note, it is brilliant that Charles N'Zogbia has left the club, for not Arsenal, PSG or Chelsea, but Wigan Athletic. The French whinger stated that he would never play for NUFC again after Joe Kinnear accidentally called him Charles 'Insomnia' in a TV interview. Pathetic excuse to leave if there was one, but his moaning was becoming tedious and to see the back of this over-rated little brat is a delight. Good luck Steve Bruce at Wigan, your turn to keep this horrible little man happy...and don't get his name wrong, or else!
Comments welcome ;)