What next for NUFC? Your guess is as good as mine. Our form is impossible to predict and this past 8 days have shown that to be the case more than ever before.
Despite our very impressive away form I could not see us picking up much from the Emirates. I would have been delighted to accept a draw before the game took place, but by full time we had 3 points in the bag along with a clean sheet and it was well deserved.
We were solid from back to front. Tim Krul was superb, pulling off a great save from Nasri, but also showing a mature head in slowing the game down when necessary and communicating better with his back 4 than he has done up until now.
Danny Simpson put in his best performance since arriving and our other fullback was yet again superb. The way Jose dominated Walcott made the England man look like a schoolboy playing against a seasoned pro.
Tiote bossed the midfield in another simple but highly effective performance and Joey Barton's distribution improves each week. That is when he is not being an idiot and ruling himself out of contention - but we will get to that later.
It was a superb Barton cross that gave us the goal that won the game - on to the head of Carroll who netted under the feeblest of challenges from Fabianski. Barton commented after the game that the team knew if they could draw Fabianski off his line we stood a great chance of scoring and that is exactly how it turned out.
Arsenal barely offered a threat and were subdued throughout - much like Everton when we played at Goodison which suggests that it has as much to do with the way we are set up and play as it has to do with the home sides in question having an off day.
Barton was interviewed at full time and he described Newcastle as being 'Coupon Busters'. Lots of people will have included an Arsenal win in their betting selection for the weekend and this result ruined it for them. Unfortunately he was right in terms of us busting coupons in a regular basis - we demonstrated that a few days later losing a game to Blackburn at SJP that many of us thought we would win.
NEVER place your money on NUFC!
Fat Sam's side rolled up on Wednesday evening and the 90 minutes was the worst spectacle that I have witnessed since Sam Allardyce was our manager. AWFUL stuff.
Allardyce is a football Vampire. His sides suck all of the entertainment from a game of football. They suck the life and soul from a game. They are ugly and brutal despite regularly indulging in diving and gamesmanship. I am not surprised so few Blackburn fans made the relatively short journey to watch this game (less than 1,000). Even if you win the game, it is hard to watch when played in the manner that they do. I know, I've seen it all before. Horrible.
Again, the game exposed our inability to compete against giant teams who are there to disrupt. We have no 'Plan B' and if the long hoof or diagonal ball to Carroll do not work we look lost for ideas. Stoke came with the same setup and left with all 3 points. The same happened on Wednesday and, great goal from Carroll aside, Paul Robinson was largely untroubled. How we could do with a Hatem ben Arfa to open up the defences of these sides.
Like Stoke, Blackburn have a huge, physical side but the way that their players were prone to fall to the ground under the slightest contact (Ryan Nelson, Pedersen to name just two) was pathetic. They disrupted the game at every opportunity and unfortunately the ref played into their hands failing to speed the game up.
Both of Blackburn's goals were pathetic errors. Tiote was caught in possession only a couple of minutes into the game and Pedersen smashed the ball into the net. That set Blackburn up perfectly. This has been coming from Tiote. As well as he has been playing we have all seen him caught in possession around his area a couple of times this season. He was lucky the previous times - but unfortunately not this time. The error clearly affected him too as he put in his poorest performance to date and could not seem to pick himself back up. He also collected his inevitable yellow card.
The second goal was also gifted to Blackburn as Williamson, as big as he is, displayed the body strength of a 12 year old girl and Jason Roberts capitalised. What a disappointment.
All of the above was only made worse when Joey Barton was given a 3 match ban on Thursday for 'punching' Morten Gamst Pedersen in an off the ball incident that the hapless referee missed. I am not going to defend Barton, it was incredibly stupid and showed the world that he has not grown up at all. There was very little provocation from Pedersen and Barton let us down - he admitted as much himself. We can't afford to have him missing for 3 games. His post incident apologies reminded me a lot of my 3 year old daughter. If she hits her little sister she thinks the quick reeling off of a few apologies makes it all perfectly OK. Barton's "I've let the manager down and the fans etc etc blah blah" does not wash with me.
That said, the incident left me very frustrated in other ways. Barton hardly touched Pedersen who then hit the floor as if he had been shot in the stomach. Pathetic. Add to that the fact that it looks like Tom Huddlestone can run around stamping on people with no post game punishment (I'm not even going to get started on Nigel de Jong.) and we are being made to deal with terrible inconsistency - this is displayed by the FA along with the greater footballing authorities and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Despite the Blackburn result we stayed in 5th going into the Fulham game. 3 points were a must in this one with tough games coming up away at Bolton (who are also flying) and then Chelsea at SJP.
Unfortunately the game turned out to be almost as frustrating as Wednesday. Despite not having won away from home in 24 games and 15 months, Fulham came for and achieved a draw.
Yet again our one game plan and reliance on Barton delivering that plan were badly exposed. Damien Duff, a heartless and average winger played out of position at left back. Surely we should have looked to expose that from the start? Didn't happen - everything went down the left despite Enrique and Jonas being covered by 3 or 4 markers at all times. The Fulham centre backs were more than comfortable in dealing with Guthrie's floated and very poor deliveries when that was the route we took. Again, naive from Hughton. The game drifted by and the changes came too late. Schwarzer pulled off a couple of good saves but then again so did Krul - 0 v 0 was a fair reflection of the game.
On a side note, referee Lee Probert was abysmal. Both sets of players were regularly confused and bemused by his decisions. Most of the time they were not sure whether a free kick had been given and if it had - who it had been given to. He gave one of the most ridiculous decisions I have ever seen. Back to goal on the halfway line, Andy Carroll was brutally rugby tackled to the floor by a mental diving Hangeland challenge. The ref awarded the Fulham man a free kick for a high foot from Carroll despite the fact that Carroll was facing in the opposite direction! He also stopped free kicks from being taken quickly and awarded no advantage to either side at any time. He stopped play when Newcastle were in a great attacking position to treat a Fulham player who did not have a head injury and then allowed them to hoof the ball the length of the pitch from the resulting drop ball. It also looked like Murphy and Dempsey were reffing the game too. They regularly squared up to Probert and screamed in his face. He looked a bit scared and failed to take any action.
There was some booing at full time directed at the ref. Obviously some pundits, press and rival fans claimed that this booing was for the result.
What will happen at the Reebok next week? Not a clue.
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