Sheffield United 0-1 Newcastle United; Tw@ @ St James’ Park

NUFC Team: Harper, Simpson, Coloccini, Kadar, Enrique, R Taylor, Butt, Smith, Gutierrez, Nolan, Carroll.

It wasn’t pretty, or even deserved, but a great three points nonetheless. What we should not do though is think that we can carry this sort of performance into our next away game and expect the same result. Similarly to the Cardiff game, we defended well and rode our luck and came away with a narrow 1-0, but like we saw against Blackpool, Scunthorpe and Forest, these sort of tactics will see us lose more often than not. Had Sheffield United possessed one half decent striker, they probably would have been victorious.

The first half was diabolical stuff from Newcastle. Sheffield United should have been leading 2-0 by half time. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the game plan was. This seems to be a worrying trend (away from home in particular). First half – play like a bunch of strangers and hoof it up to Andy Carroll. Second half – start playing properly, outclass the opposition. Quite why we are unable to play well from the start is beyond me. But anyway, Newcastle came out the better side and it was in this spell that Ryan Taylor scored his deflected long range effort. Its good to see us trying our luck from distance more often this season, as I don’t recall one goal from outside the area in the Premier League last year (I may be wrong).

Ryan Taylor

Wonder goal

As the second half wore on, Newcastle began to sit back and invite pressure from Sheffield United. Again, why we always seem to do this, I don’t know. Sheffield United are an awful, awful side in the midst of a terrible run of form, and we shouldn’t have allowed them the opportunity to draw level. Even more strange is that this happened after Ranger and Harewood were introduced, to join Carroll in a front 3. Not sure what Hughton was thinking there. Good decision to bring on Ranger, but Harewood too? Baffling. Even more baffling was his decision to start Butt ahead of Guthrie. Either I am blind and Nicky Butt’s contribution to the team is invaluable, or Hughton is too spineless to drop Butt because of his ‘big name’ status. Well, I am pretty sure I am not blind. And I say ‘big name’ because the only thing big about Nicky Butt anymore is his wages. The man is finished. Two relegations on his CV since leaving Man Utd is not a coincidence. If Ashley is serious about trying to save his own money, he could have done well to get rid of Butt and Geremi in the summer and save himself £5m+ a year in wages. That they are still here is shocking. Yes, I know that there would barely have been a queue of clubs wanting to sign them, but I’m sure that someone (Hull) would have snapped up either on a free transfer. It is this sort of stupidity (sell Bassong on approx £5k a week and keep Geremi and Butt, both on £50k+ a week) that means I have no sympathy for Ashley whatsoever.

The good points: Harper, Coloccini, Kadar, Enrique and Carroll were all excellent. Carroll is fast looking a class player. Enrique is by far the best full back in this division. Kadar has looked very promising in his first two league starts this season, and Harper won us the game single handedly. At the start of the season I was calling for Harper to be replaced by Krul. I am happy to admit that I was wrong, Harper has been outstanding this season. Nolan did OK but he doesn’t look comfortable playing off the striker. He looks threatening when arriving late from midfield, when the defence are already concentrating on the two strikers. When playing as, effectively, the second striker, he becomes a little easier to mark. Saying that, he is still one of our biggest goal threats no matter where he is playing.

The bad: I’ve already mentioned Nicky Butt. Some people reckon he did well on Monday night, but only because he was slightly better than he has been in the past. He’s still slow. He’s still a liability. He still can’t pass. I’m not sure why we need two holding midfielders against Sheffield United. Not that the duo of Smith and Butt helped particularly. The only reason Sheffield United didn’t score was because they missed a host of chances, not because our midfield pairing was shutting them out. Marlon Harewood was dire when he came on. He only had 10 minutes or so, but by God, he looked bad. At one point he looked like he might be through on goal but his first touch seemed to take the ball backwards. Appalling. Knowing our luck, he’ll be signed permanently for £1m in January.

Player Ratings:

Harper – 9: Won us the game, simple as that. MOTM.

Simpson – 6: Did fairly well, unlucky to be withdrawn for Ranger.

Coloccini – 7: Not a coincidence that in his first game back we kept a clean sheet. Along with Taylor he is invaluable to our promotion hopes.

Kadar – 7: Promising performance, again. Sheff Utd had a lot set pieces and on the whole, we dealt with them very well.

Enrique – 8: Rock solid at the back and always a threat going forward. An outside candidate for our player of the season.

Gutierrez – 5: Seemed to work fairly hard but… again, nothing. Mystifying.

Butt – 4: Not his worst performance ever. I’m aware that some may think I am making Butt a scapegoat – fair enough. But he’s been his 5 years now. This is no knee-jerk reaction. The man is utterly useless. Makelele was 10 times the player Butt ever was, but even he was dropped eventually by Chelsea when it became clear that his age was preventing him from doing his job properly. We owe Butt nothing. Making him captain and giving him first team football every week out of some mis-placed loyalty, or something, is a big mistake.

Smith – 5: Typical Smith performance. 5 is perhaps a tad harsh.

R Taylor – 7: Would be a 6, but for the goal. At the moment his biggest attribute is his set pieces (much improved this season), which he didn’t really get the opportunity to show off in the game. If everyone was fit, I’d have him as first choice on the right of midfield.

Nolan – 6: Not his best game but worked hard for the team and you can tell that he’s better than the vast majority of the players at this level.

Carroll – 7: Showed some wonderful touches in the second half, and did well to lead the line on his own in the first.

Subs:

Ranger – 5: Struggled a little to get into the game to be honest.

Harewood – 2: Not good enough for the Championship.

And now, on to the disgrace that is Mike Ashley. It didn’t take him long, did it? One week after announcing that the naming rights for St James park would be up for grabs next season, our stadium has been renamed for the next six months, ‘Sports Direct.com @ St.James’ Park’. Apparently this is to ‘show case’ the package to any would be sponsors. This man is shameless. How he has the nerve to pull this shit again and again is just criminal… Presumably, Newcastle United will receive no money over the next six months from Sports Direct for this ‘honour’. Six months free advertising for his shit hole of a company. Ashley is probably pissing himself.

St James Park

Mike Ashley is a c*** @ St James' Park

I have no doubts that this is what will happen…

If Newcastle get promoted, Ashley will try and sell the club for an increased amount in the summer. If he is successful, the new owners will probably abandon the naming rights idea, and Ashley would have had 6 months free advertising for Sports Direct.

If Newcastle are not promoted, Ashley will sell the naming rights to any crappy brand that will take them. Pampers, Mars Bar, Greggs, whoever. Probably for a fee as low as £1m a year. Greggs @ St James’ Park. Great.

If Newcastle get promoted, but Ashley is unable to sell the club, he will probably keep the name Sports Direct.com @ St James’ Park. Money will not be as vital, as we will be back in the Premier League, but he’ll keep the free advertising.

And anyway, aside from the fact that this whole situation is a disgrace, who the hell came up with the idea to call it Sports Direct.com @ St James’ Park? It really is the worst name ever. The whole @ thing is cringe inducing. Is it supposed to be cool? Why don’t we just call it Sports Direct.com @ $t J@m£z’ P@rk?

Sadly, its Mike Ashley in a nut shell. Tacky, shameless, clueless. We deserve better.

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