West Brom 1 – 1 Newcastle United

NUFC Team: Harper, R Taylor, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Duff, Nolan, Smith (c), Gutierrez, Ameobi, Carroll

A well worked second half goal from Damien Duff earned Newcastle a perhaps fortunate draw against many people’s favourites for the title yesterday at the Hawthornes.

Despite the men in yellow largely having the best of the first half, it was West Brom who took the lead in the 39th minute when Newcastle typically failed to cope with a routine set piece and the centre back Martis piled in the loose ball.

Harper had come to claim the cross from the free kick but spilled it, and whilst everyone (bar Coloccini) was scrambling around to clear it, Harper got kicked in the head by Ameobi and Martis was left with an even easier chance than the one that he had spooned earlier in the game (from a similar free kick position).

Harper required medical attention for a couple of minutes, and once he was up again, Newcastle looked like they may collapse in a nervy five minutes until the half time whistle. Fortunately, the team were able to make it to the dressing room with their one goal deficit still in tact and the fans at home were treated to a ‘Shearer team talk’ in the BBC studios. He went on to point out our inadequacies, which we all already know, and briefly discussed his ‘could have been’ plans for the summer. On the transfer target list that he had drawn up, Lee Dixon pointed out that they had probably all already moved on, which was met with laughter from Shearer and Lineker. Shearer promptly remarked ‘I don’t know why I’m laughing’ and in that one moment he struck more of a connection with Newcastle fans than anyone else currently at the club could ever do. Plenty of times this summer I have found myself making light of our current situation, and laughing about it with fellow Toon fans on messageboards or with my mates down the pub, and I’m tired of having to do that.

Prior to West Brom’s goal, Newcastle had actually looked half decent, in patches. Plenty of possession but nothing in the final third. Half the players doing alright, and the other half disgracing the shirt. Nothing new there. Gutierrez was the one that will probably divide opinion and frustrate, as usual. The Argentine looked able to beat his marker at will, getting the better of him on at least four or five occasions in the first half. But every single time, the cross was weak, inaccurate and came to nothing.

Which brings me on to my next point. What the hell is with playing wingers on their opposite flanks? We did it last season and it didn’t work then either. Jonas (right footed) on the left flank and Duff (left footed) on the right. Ok, so Duff’s goal came from the right hand side, but other than that, neither winger put in one proper cross all game. Duff’s right foot is non-existent, and Gutierrez’s crossing is poor enough as it is, let alone on his weaker foot. I understand the theory behind this tactic. I know that Jonas, for Argentina, likes to play on the left and cut in on to his favoured right foot. The best example of this sort of player was Robert Pires. Hovering out on the left, he was devastating when he cut inside. But Gutierrez is no Pires. Duff doesn’t need an excuse to cut inside and pass it backwards at the best of times, but when he’s stuck out on the right side of midfield, he is almost forced into it every time. The reason someone like Pires, or even Ashley Young, is so good at cutting inside, is because they are decent with both feet. When a full back knows that a winger can go either way, its hugely difficult to defend against. But defenders know that if they show Gutierrez and Duff down the by-line onto their weaker foot, absolutely nothing is going to come of their crosses. Its easy to defend against, and it pisses me off that a high paid ‘coach’ like Hughton can’t see this.

The teams came out for the second half and Tim Krul came on for the slightly concussed Steve Harper. Krul is a great talent and I have been looking forward to him being given a chance for a long time. Its sad that it came at the expense of a Steve Harper injury, but that was realistically the only opportunity he was ever going to get.

Duff slots in the equaliser on his right foot

Duff slots in the equaliser on his right foot

Ten minutes into the half our equaliser came. Hughton had obviously told Nolan to get forward more and support the front two (something Shearer also suggested at half time) and that is how he began. Shola, coming in from the left hand side, looked as if he was going to pass it to the overlapping Gutierrez. The defenders obviously thought this too, as it seemed to take them by surprise when he instead opted to pass it neatly into the centrally positioned Nolan on the edge of the area. In a rare glimpse of ability, Nolan calmly controlled it and then perfectly rolled it into the path of the incoming Damien Duff who placed it beautifully into the far corner of the net with his right foot. It was a great move and a great goal – and its not often we have been able to say that in recent years.

Almost immediately, Tim Krul was forced into action with an awesome save from a Robert Koren shot that looked to be headed for the bottom corner. This was the first of four truly excellent stops. Laughably, Mark Lawrenson came out with the statement that “there’ll be 500 or so fans in that away end that had never heard of Krul before today”. What?! Mark, do not make the assumption that just because you know nothing about football, no one else does either. He is our number two keeper, and as was pointed out to you, he made his debut three years ago with a man of the match performance in a hugely impressive 1-0 win in the UEFA Cup away at Palermo.

Should Harper be back in the team for the next game…? Harsh as it is, you have to say that Krul has probably earned another shot. Yes, he didn’t look entirely comfortable on one or two occasions when coming to claim the ball, but he grew in stature as the half wore on. He could barely have had a more impressive 45 minutes, and I’m in no doubt that Harper wouldn’t have made all four of those saves. Harper used to always be justifiably annoyed that no matter how well he played, Given would always come back in and re-claim his place. Well, now the boot is on the other foot. Lets not make the mistake of awarding Harper the number 1 spot just because of his loyalty to us over the years. He’s extremely likeable and professional, and in an ideal world, he would be my keeper. But there is a reason he was never given an extended run in the team – he wasn’t good enough. He was a very good back up, but not a goalie that you wanted to build your team on. As it is, apparently Hughton has come out and said that Harper will be back in the team for the next game, so we will wait and see how it pans out over the course of the season.

On the 75 minute mark, Hughton made his 2nd substitution of the day. Barton for Carroll. I’m not going to get into the stories about Barton getting in a huff and storming out of training. It probably did happen. I don’t like the bloke – he’s a scumbag. But he’s probably our best player. Play him, or sell him. Regardless of that, the decision to bring off Carroll was staggering. Carroll had worked hard all day, won the majority of aerial balls that came his way and had generally put in a very good shift. You may notice that I haven’t mentioned Ameobi much yet, and that’s because I’m saving that for later. But by the 75th minute, Nolan was breathing out of his fucking arse. After 10 minutes of getting forward, the goal arrived, and Nolan promptly went back to working on his vanishing act. One decent pass in 90 minutes is not acceptable. I’ve been a massive critic of Smith, but he did well today. His passing and shooting was still piss poor, but he made some great tackles and he was essentially doing the work of two men. Barton should have been brought on for Nolan or Ameobi. No doubt about it. To instead bring off Carroll is ineptitude of the highest order, and shows Hughton up as the clueless man that we all know he is.

From this point onwards, we were largely holding on for the draw. A West Brom goal was correctly ruled out for offside in the dying seconds, in a moment that had Newcastle fans everywhere collectively soiling themselves. Nile Ranger was brought on for Ameobi with three minutes to go and looked more threatening than Ameobi had done in the previous ninety.

Very good result, but the performance has a lot of room for improvement.

Player ratings:

Harper – 5: Spilled the ball that led to the West Brom goal, and had little else to do. Not his fault that he was kicked in the head by the oaf Ameobi.

R Taylor – 4: Awful, awful player. Barely found a teammate with a pass all game and to call his set pieces inconsistent would be extremely generous. Not a patch on Beye and we need a proper RB replacement desperately.

S Taylor – 7: Our best defender. Made a couple of weak headed clearances that fell to West Brom players in dangerous positions but other than that he was pretty solid. Typical Taylor.

Coloccini – 4: Woeful. Looks just as out of his depth here as he did in the Premiership. Replays of the West Brom goal showed that whilst all around him were scrambling to clear the ball, Coloccini was standing outside the six yard box with his hands on his hips. It comes as no surprise that the man who put the ball in the net, Shelton Martis, was the man Coloccini was supposed to be marking. Needs to be flogged back to Spain for whatever we can get and Kadar needs to be given a go.

Enrique – 6: Passing was a little wayward but this was a half decent performance, as we’ve come to expect from the Spainard. Rarely a liability in defence, he should start to prosper if paired up with a proper left winger in Duff.

Duff – 6: Took his goal brilliantly, and whilst he spooned a good chance in the first half, it was stupidly put on to his weaker right foot by Carroll. Clearly uncomfortable out on the right wing, he needs to be switched to his proper position as soon as possible.

Nolan – 5: A big, fat disgrace. Evidently woefully unfit. Its the first game of the season for God sake! What’s he been doing in pre-season? A good pass for the goal, which prevented him being given a 2. Offers nothing. Hopefully someone like Hull will come in and give us a couple of million for him, as he is no good to us.

Smith – 6: Has received a few plaudits since the game yesterday, but lets not get carried away. He looked incredible in comparison to Nolan and relative to our low expectations for him. He still can’t pass or shoot, and he’s still on approximately £60k a week. He’s not worth it. Hopefully his performance yesterday will convince someone in the Prem to take him off our hands. A partnership of Barton and Guthrie is still our best.

Gutierrez – 5: A generous 5 at that. Beat his full back on numerous occasions but still can’t cross or shoot for shit. In the second half, he began diving at every opportunity. It was embarrassing. The referee was having none of it, which resulted in no one believing him when he went down after genuinely being whacked on the side of the head. He was typified when in the first half, Gutierrez found himself on his own in the middle of the pitch on the ball. No one was making any runs, so he started waving his arms about. Ryan Taylor then belatedly made a run, only for Gutierrez to fail to find him, feebly passing the ball out of play when only 6 or 7 yards away from his intended target.

Carroll – 6: Worked hard, won the ball in the air more often than not and had some decent touches. Needs a new partner…

Ameobi – 3: Ah. Ameobi. Fucking useless. This man is a disgrace and no longer fit to wear the shirt. Hopelessly out of his depth even at this level. Tried a couple of tricks and flicks that didn’t come off. No skill, no pace, no finishing ability and lazy. We need to either bring someone else in or at least give Ranger a go ahead of him. Beckford, who was rumoured to be a target earlier in the summer, scored 2 goals for Leeds yesterday. Typical. Not a chance of getting him anymore.

Subs:

Krul – 8: Brilliant league debut. Four terrific stops, despite what Lawrenson may tell you. Should be given a run in the team in my opinion, but unlikely with Hughton in charge. MOTM

Barton – 5: Didn’t really do much when he came on.

Ranger – N/A: Not given enough time.

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3 Responses to “West Brom 1 – 1 Newcastle United”

  1. Mart Says:

    Absolutely spot on mate. This is becomming a must-read blog in my opinion. Cheers

  2. toontoonblog Says:

    Thanks for that mate! Real nice of you. Glad you like it

  3. Manfriday Says:

    Yeah spot on. Why is it managers/stand in managers always seem to make the most baffling substitute decisions?

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