RAMBLE: Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle United
The Geordies were in town. I was really looking forward to this one.
First off, the Reading ramble went down really well and I appreciate the feedback.
I’d have taken 4 points from 2 tricky derby games if offered but it’s disappointing we didn’t get maximum points given the manner of our capitulation at Barnsley.
We conceded at the death and we almost lost. It felt like a defeat.
The Rotherham win was much needed confidence wise.
It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done, even though the linesman very kindly helped us out for the first goal.
Rotherham lacked quality and are relegated for a reason. It was the perfect game for them but we avoided the banana skin. The return of Hooper was well timed after a long time out injured.
Given our up and down form, I’d be happy with a point.
Seeing the scores filter through, Fulham won so we had to follow suit. It was a big ask against the potential champions but it had to be done.
And well done to that lot over the road on promotion at the 6th time of asking. We may or may not be playing them next season.
Seeing Jordan Rhodes on the bench wasn’t surprising. Apart from the odd game where he’s flourished, he’s not been convincing since he’s arrived.
You couldn’t drop Fletcher after getting a brace in midweek. Pudil was back and having Fernando on the bench isn’t a bad option to have.
Back on the team sheet
A healthy crowd was in store, the only downside was seeing the Leppings Lane lower close to empty. Giving it to us was a poor move; Newcastle would’ve sold it out no problem and we’d have seen another 30,000+ crowd.
It’s a shame SYP had to get involved. We should have control over what we can and can’t sell.
I had no luck in the Grand National for those interested. You know it’s out when one horse you backed fell at the first hurdle and the other 2 pulled up near the end.
For once we didn’t start slowly – it’s easy to be motivated when you play the big sides. 2 minutes on the clock when a rash clearance found Hooper who hit the crossbar after Pudil and Reach combined well down the left.
It calmed down a little after that but the start was encouraging. Everyone was up for it; we were looking bright and didn’t give Newcastle a moments rest.
Bannan played a ball over the top to Hooper (there were suspicions of offside) and he fed in Fletcher, who was unmarked, and somehow put his effort wide. A glorious chance wasted.
A few minutes later, Bannan received a yellow for going in late on Matt Richie. Maybe it could’ve been a red; some may say it should’ve been. The way the ref was running across, I was certain Bannan would be off but thankfully not.
Hooper was again in the thick of the action when he outdone Mbemba on the by line and pulled the ball back for Fletcher who was denied by a top save from Darlow.
I had a feeling he was going to be our nemesis like the reverse fixture at SJP.
Then we got a penalty shout when Hunt went down in the box under a Gouffran challenge but the referee wasn’t interested. Looked a bit soft from where I was.
Gayle: off injured
Newcastle were forced into a change after half an hour when Dwight Gayle had to go off (with ironic cheers from our lot) with Daryl Murphy coming on – a former loanee of ours back in 2005.
He made his presence felt with an effort that deflected agonisingly wide.
Just before half time, Shelvey saw Westwood off his line and tried his luck from inside his own half. It was dipping, Westwood was scrambling back. I thought it was going in but luckily it hit the bar.
HALF TIME: WEDNESDAY 0-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED
All in all, a great half. We were the better side for large spells and should’ve been ahead. Newcastle have had their moments – would’ve been a subdued feeling had the Shelvey effort went in – but they looked shaky defensively. Hooper was playing superbly giving Mbemba nightmares. We’re suspect to not taking chances; I was hoping we wouldn’t get sucker punched.
A forced change was made at the interval; Vincent Sasso, back from suspension, replaced Loovens.
Newcastle started the second half looking more dangerous. Shelvey again at the heart of it. Westwood had to be alert twice – firstly holding a shot from the edge of the box and secondly palming away a free kick.
A free kick was given on the right hand side with Wallace standing over it. Before it could be taken, Hooper went off for Rhodes. A sub that was always expected given Hooper’s just come back from injury. A solid performance and he’ll only get better when he’s sharper.
The free kick was whipped in and LEES rose highest and sent it past an outstretched Darlow. Against the run of play but a lead well merited after our first half display.
The atmosphere went up a notch. The Kop was bouncing. It gave everyone a lift.
Shelvey aside, Newcastle looked poor. You could see how reliant there are on him.
Wallace sent in another in-swinging free kick but Darlow was equal to it, punching the ball clear.
Not long after that, Reach did well down the left to win a throw in close to the corner flag. Pudil pumped it in, almost Rory Delap-esque and FLETCHER flicked it over Darlow into the far corner.
A cracking header, better as he was a fair way out. Such strength in the neck. He certainly enjoyed it being a former Mackem doing a swan lake celebration.
Wallace’s afternoon was done with Semedo coming on. Carlos took the sting out of the game. Didn’t even need to bring on Forestieri, keeping him fresh.
Westwood was winning the battle with Shelvey after stopping another effort.
We were looking comfortable until late on when Newcastle went for broke. Sub Mitrovic’s effort was parried but Shelvey was there to finally get a goal. No one could say he didn’t deserve one.
It was all Newcastle as we went into stoppage time.
Newcastle won a free kick just outside the box in a very dangerous position. Fortunately, it was blasted into the wall and cleared to safety.
And that was that. A welcome 3 points. Bannan’s reaction in front of the Kop when the whistle went showed how much it meant.
FULL TIME: WEDNESDAY 2-1 NEWCASTLE UNITED
A deserved win and performance to match but we love making it difficult for ourselves! It’s the Wednesday way after all.
It shows that we are capable of competing with the best sides in this league. We all know what we’re capable of; we just haven’t seen it enough. It’s why fans, me included, have been frustrated.
We could’ve easily sat back and played for a point but we knew how to get at Newcastle after beating them earlier in the season and we got what we deserved. Who knows what would’ve happened had we gone in 1-0 down at the break.
As for Newcastle, disappointing but they should still get promotion along with Brighton given Huddersfield didn’t take advantage. They’ve got quality in their squad but when they’ve played against us, they haven’t looked impressive – ourselves, Fulham and Blackburn have done the double over the Geordies!
You can see how important Shelvey is to the team; everything ran through him and is their best player by some distance, arguably the best midfielder in the Championship. Gayle gets the goals but their own version of JJ makes them tick.
I know some people will focus on Fletchers’ missed chances but it’s 3 goals in his last 2 games and contributing to vital wins.
I think along with Hooper, he’ll be a key performer in the run-in. I thought he was a brilliant signing – on a free transfer let’s not forget – but he has been very average, until this week, where he has done the job we bought him for. To have a player of his pedigree hitting form now is a huge plus.
Speaking of Hooper, it’s fantastic to see him back. 2 x 60 minutes in a week is good going for him. What a difference he makes to the team, his link up play is what we have missed in the past 4 months.
Jones also had a good game. He’s been one of the unsung heroes recently. Not spectacular showings but consistent. Does the dirty work and keeps it simple, winning the ball and giving it to the creative players. He’s filled in the “Hutch role” really well since he’s been out injured.
Pudil got MOTM by Sky which wasn’t surprising – could’ve given it to quite a few people. He looked like the player of last season, time out of the side has done him the world of good.
I’ve been one of Carlos’ biggest critics this season but he tactically got it right, outdoing a Champions League winning manager twice! I said he needed to prove me wrong and he’s guided us through a tough week with 7 points out of 9, you can’t knock that.
A result like this is obviously great but we’ve seen far too many flashes in the pan for my liking, a good showing followed up with a below average one.
I’m hoping we can keep this momentum going and play with the same intent. If beating Newcastle doesn’t give us confidence, I don’t know what will.
There’s no point putting the effort in one game if it’s not backed up in the next one. Cardiff on Friday will be difficult as they won’t allow us to play to our strengths, especially as our good friend Neil “Colin” Warnock will be in the opposing dugout. You know what you’re going to get from him.
Our chances of top 6 now look better than they did 7 days ago. I’m far from confident given the nature of this division – we’re 2 points clear of Fulham (with an inferior GD) with 15 points to play for.
Let’s worry about ourselves, one game at a time and see what happens. We can’t control other results; they’ll take care of themselves.
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @LiamK2292