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Watford 1 Newcastle United 2 (28/02/2010) 28/02/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five thunks from a sodden Vicarage Road

1- The overriding emotion is one of frustration; dominance in the middle of the park is of limited value if you can’t defend a set piece, and don’t have the guile to unpick a defence. Enormously frustrating to see whatever neat passing we could fashion on what is suddenly a hugely unhelpful surface labour to create chances whilst free headers were being offered to Newcastle in our own box.

2- Newcastle came as advertised, only more so. After so long hankering for a return to the cavalier side of the mid-nineties, the Toon Army currently “enjoys” a team that is as close to the antithesis of that as it is possible to imagine; pragmatism over style, what over how, a kick up the arse over a quick pass, a team of enormous blokes, defensively resolute, aggressive and unpleasant in midfield, crude and direct in attack. A recipe for escape from this division to be sure… and an approach that seemed to have been deliberately exaggerated to intimidate our young and (still) lightweight side. It worked too, until the last five or ten minutes when we got stuck in a bit more, nicked a goal and immediately had United’s charmless goons bickering at the back. There’s a lesson there, I think.

3- Lloyd Doyley. You’d sooner have a defender of Lloydinho’s character and application who didn’t occasionally pass the ball inexplicably into touch, to be sure. But I will happily take Lloydy’s failings in return for his indefatigable readiness to try again next time, his willingness to have a go at Newcastle when others seemed to cower. That over a better player who is at our level because he can’t always be bothered. Every day of the week. I’m hugely heartened to be (apparently) in the majority too – difficult to think of many players past or present whose errors would be greeted with such encouragement and enthusiasm.

4- Experience tells us that you have to be pretty poor to be relegated from this division. You don’t need to be good to stay up, just less poor than three other teams and we don’t look a poor side. You can go down through being unlucky however, by being the mug without a chair when the music stops (witness Leicester two years ago), and with a small squad, a packed schedule and a heavy pitch that no longer permits us to impose our game on opponents as it has done in the past we kinda need to hope that our main men stay fit.

5- If that’s what a mid-season break would feel like, you can stuff it. Sure, we’ve had a couple of midweeks and there have been the away games, but being back at Vicarage Road on a Saturday for the first time since Boxing Day felt somewhat first-day-of-the-seasonish. Apart from the rain, obviously.


1. Hydeandseek - 28/02/2010

Can’t remember the last time I walked away after losing thinking every player on the pitch had tried their heart out. We may lack some quality in the final third but surely with that sort of passion and commitment on the pitch we’ll get enough points to survive.

2. Simon - 28/02/2010

All rather unsatisfactory really.

No-one had a poor game particularly (except possibly for Marriapa who looks very tentative on the ball at present – I’m not yet sure if this is down to him per se or the fact that the link up with Cowie seems to be misfiring a bit at present) but you couldn’t help but feel that it was a relativley comfortable afternoon for Newcastle.

When it came to the crunch our physical disadvantages on set plays at both ends of the pitch proved the difference as Newcastle had 3 or 4 set plays around the box, looking dangerous from each and we had numerous opportunities without, from my recollection, winning a single first or second ball. Demerit found rather wanting for both the away goals although I thought he generally had not a bad game, those two incidents aside.

As for the prospects of relagation, I mentioned in a post previously that this is not a season for table watching, given how close things are. We are likely to need 4 wins and a draw from 15 games to be certain to avoid relegation and I remain confident that we can acheive that. Provided everyone remains calm and injuries and suspensions don’t kick in too hard, there’s enough there to finish happily mid-table.

Matt Rowson - 28/02/2010

“provided…” was my point. You’re right, of course, we SHOULD be ok.

Agree about Mariappa. re Demerit, the second goal was a bit unfortunate, and down in part to some holding in the box – these things happen, but it’s harsh to criticise. The first was a shambles.

3. kris - 28/02/2010

Good thunks Matt. Malky has stated that despite losing both fixtures against the geordies, we should take confidence and pride from those two games. I however, am taking no end of worries as well. The fact that we can dominate possession like we have, not getting much return on tpossession and still let in cheap goals – that to me is a recipe for relegation.

I have maintained we were relegation candidates throughout this season – even when others were (overly optimistically) suggesting we were playoff material. I still can see us go down. The squad is extremely thin and the inability to score from our chances is key.

That said, there are some truly awful teams in the division. Peterborough are down for sure, Plymouth are looking a good bet as well. But the final spot is up for grabs and it could easily end up being us. We need to remain focussed and Malky needs to find a plan B for when the pitch and the weather do not suit out Brazil like passing.

Ad. thunk 3 – you are spot on. Doyley is not only a personal favourite of mine – he’s kind of a hero imho. The way he’s been dropped and come back so many times is one thing. But there’s never been one word of moaning – just head down, hard work and “bounce-back-ability” ;). He’s not an obvious hero but he’s such a perfect pro and from what I hear – a genuinely nice guy. His stray passes – which are becoming fewer and farther apart from what I hear – can be frustrating BUT… IF SLD had a good consistent passing game along with his defending he’s be in the premiership I feel. I prefer him in yellow and black 😉

Re. thunk 5 – we have a mid season break in denmark. From November til March no football is played. It means the clubs have two pre-seasons more or less. I think it’s good for the players’ fitness but as a fan it is annoying. And should the CCC also introduce mid-season breaks, my weekends would be a lot less exciting.

thehornet35 - 02/03/2010

My money is now on Palace joining them with Warnock off to QPR, how ever much I despise Warnock (and I do) he does have a decent track record in the Championship. With all the financial worries and thin squad that Palace have, I think it is the worst time to loose him, and I think they will drop out.

4. rousman - 28/02/2010

Agree with most matt. Why make the substutions so late any idea ? Newcastle set up to allow for the state of the pitch, you feel that had the goal come 5 minutes earlier we may have got a second, although we did not win many headers in there box. We will be ok this season but as I have said before we are not as good without Cleverley. Both keepers had not a lot to do, but to lose the 2 goals from set plays when we bring everyone back to defend is not good.

5. DM - 28/02/2010

@ Kris – Re: dominating posession but not creating chances, and conceding soft goals being a recipe for relegation – if these had been the norm this season I too would be worried. However, they’ve been very much the exception at home this season. We have only been well beaten 3 times in 15 outings (Cardiff, Derby and yesterday being the 3..the Cov defeat was just bad luck). Perfectly acceptable home form for a team that’s only pre-season aspiration was to beat the drop.

Keep in mind, too, that while we came up against a brick wall defensive display from yesterday’s visitors, we brushed our last 2 home opponents aside, and the pitch was no better on those 2 nights. There are enough distinctly average teams due at The Vic between now and May to ensure we pick up enough points to finish pretty much where we’ve been all season. If we can nick an away win somewhere as well, so much the better !

6. Tim Turner - 28/02/2010

The most frustrating thing for me was the general unwillingness to shoot, which reminded me of the Lewington years. I lost count of the number of times John Eustace collected the ball directly in front of goal, a few yards away from the penalty area, and chose to loft a hopeful pass into the area rather than just lamping it. He may not be Richard Johnson, but a long shot is always worth a try, IMO, in the hope of a useful deflection if nothing else.

The strikers were no better. Shortly before Hoskins’s goal, Heidar got the ball just inside the area. Instead of shooting, he tried to move the ball on to someone running in from the left and we lost the ball.

The other telling factor is that, because of our limited resources, even with seven players on the bench, there’s no one sitting there who you can look to when we need a lift – the sort of role Anthony Macnamee so often performed, for instance. Okay, Hoskins scored, and I’m really pleased for him, and maybe McGinn and Buckley will give us that option in due course. But for now, you feel that an attacking substitution is only worth making if someone’s injured or tiring.

Matt Rowson - 28/02/2010

Agree with the general point about options from the bench Tim, but citing McNamee as what we’re missing does rather lose your argument some credibility.

Tim Turner - 01/03/2010

Fair point. But I always felt that even if little Ant didn’t actually produce much end product, the mere fact of him coming on late in a game and running at opposing defenders lifted the team, and the crowd, when we needed it.

Obviously, my argument would be a lot stronger if I could think of a single concrete example where this changed the result of a match…

simmo - 02/03/2010

Tim, I agree with your first paragraph and to prove the point the goal was scored in just those circumstances. I find it frustrating that when we seem to be in a central position someone knocks it to the wing for a cross. Take the shot, don’t pass the buck!

7. JohnF - 28/02/2010

What Malky and his team have managed throughout the season is to keep heads high after a defeat or even several defeats. We are still playing some good stuff and if McGinn had been able to keep his feet who knows what would have happened. Hoskins did well and although I think he is still an enigma, he could have a very important part to play. We also need consistency from several senior players, including Helguson and Tom Cowie.

8. SteveG - 28/02/2010

Agree fully with your point about Lloyd Doyley. They got nothing of any note to work down that side with Lloyd’s resolute defending… and first and foremost that’s what you want from a defender. Unfortunately they didn’t need to as we gifted them a couple down the middle.

The limted amount that I’ve seen of Lee Hodson this season looked very promising, but the consensus among the regulars was that he was looking defensively vulnerable (but then so did Mariappa yesterday). Could he have a role in the last 20 minutes of a game in right midfield, as a potential supplier of crosses for the head of Mr H?

9. hornetboy84 - 28/02/2010

only real moan yetserday was that the subsutution should have been 20 mins earlier. For me – if Cleverley is not playing I would play Hoskins (at Home) and Harley (away)…. we needed players who could beat a player to take them out of the game….

… it will be a tight run in… just need to keep our nerve and do our thing and we should be okay…

.. and we battered ’em for 3 mins !

10. The Great Big O - 01/03/2010

I feel it’s a bit harsh to discuss possible relegation following defeat to the league leaders during a monsoon.

Each week, we get a different performance. Unincisive against Newcastle, wasteful against Scunny, effective against Bristol City…

That’s mid-table for you. And I’m delighted to be there.

Matt Rowson - 01/03/2010

no probs with being midtable, and i’m not castigating Saturday’s performance. the reality is though that we are close enough to the relegation zone for it to be a nagging worry, particularly since so much of our season is crammed into the next couple of months.

Losing players or form at this point could be expensive – that’s what happened five years ago (Lewington’s last season) and it nearly got us relegated.

DM - 01/03/2010

Or we could get a point at Derby, win 2 of the 3 home games in a week and be almost home and hosed. You pessimistic bugger.

11. Sequel - 01/03/2010

The fact that the “multi-ball” system was discontinued for the second half aided and abetted Newcastle’s tactics. Harper was beyond a joke at times, pretending not to know where the ball was, knocking his boots on the post, waving to the players etc, etc

12. Dave Jackson - 01/03/2010

Anyone notice how it was their snivelling number 2, Simpson I think, who got Harley booked by pointing out to the ref he’d already had a chat to him. Isn’t trying to get a player booked meant to be a bookable offence of its own?

Matt Rowson - 01/03/2010

The argument would carry more weight if Harley wasn’t the subject. More than worth a yellow card over the piece…

13. NickB - 01/03/2010

What a grim, functional outfit Newcastle are; a poor man’s Stoke.

What happened to the always watchable Magpies with their expansive football? Sir Bobby will be turning in his grave.

Very reminiscent of the Birmingham game last year – they score first and there’s no way back.

We’re not short of effort, but seriously lack width and pace.

Wonder what sort of a mess Sarries made of the pitch in yesterday’s conditions?

Matt Rowson - 01/03/2010

Fortunately next up are Swansea, not Newcastoke. They won’t like playing on that surface either.

14. rousman - 01/03/2010

the thing is Matt you must play to the condition of the pitch as Newcastle did on Saturday, Swansea may do the same, we must adapt as well.

15. Matt Lovett - 01/03/2010

Couldn’t agree more with you Matt on a number of points. Watching this match took be back to the 70s – the pitch was reminiscent of the mudbaths that were commonplace then, the (tied up) mullets worn by what seemed like half of Newcastle’s personnel, the cynical, dirty, niggly attitude/behaviour of all of their team bar the classy Harper (yeah he did a bit of timewasting, but compared to the rest of ’em he was a saint), the ref letting the (mostly Necastle) players kick the oppo other into submission…Revie’s Leeds at their finest. Sir Bobby will surely be squirming, let alone turning, in his grave.

As for the mighty Lloyd – aren’t England looking for a left-back…?

16. markymark - 02/03/2010

The great Big O : You sound like Ray Lewington with this “happy to be mid table” malarky.
I beg to differ, as IMO this seasons championship is so poor it annoys me to see us struggle when I know on paper our starting X1 is as good as anyone in the division including Newcastle

The only difference is of course is that our SQUAD is probably the smallest ( in terms of numbers and height! ) and youngest in the division.

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