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Newcastle United 1 Watford 0 (03/11/2018) 04/11/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1 – The big challenge when attending games at this time of year is the bloody weather, and thus judging clothing requirements.  I appreciate that this is becoming a recurring theme, perhaps I’m getting old…  but you know what I’m talking about, right?  Is it going to be cold (like Bournemouth) or sunny?  How much effect will the wind have, how many layers do I need?  Travelling by car you can hedge your bets by loading up the boot to cover all angles.  On the train it’s harder, the more so if you have to weigh up the climate on the other side of the country.

By the time seats were reached, having navigated a stifling carriage, a long breezy walk to a pub by the marina, the interior of this and then another pub, the marvellous flood of humanity upwards towards the ground, the fourteen-staircase ascent to the gods at St James Park (base camp, thermos and Sherpas not provided) and exposure to the elements at altitude only one conclusion was possible.  There was no good decision.

2- It comes to something when you’re coming to St James’ Park in the Premier League expecting to win.  This perverse state of affairs reflects United’s reality as well as ours; nonetheless, it’s odd enough to make us uneasy in itself.  Alice confesses to having a bad feeling about the game in pub 1;  great start, unparalleled squad or otherwise it’ll take a while to adjust to where we find ourselves.

After a minute’s silence in memory of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha which segues hesitantly into a minute’s applause the game kicks off.  Newcastle’s downtrodden support are generally quiet but any suggestion of progress however tentative is encouraged with a wordless bellow.  This very quickly feels like a game of “first goal wins” since the home crowd would clearly rally behind as unprecedented a fillip as going ahead, but their side is so toothless that even a one goal lead (surely leading to two or three) would be decisive.

And such looked the likely outcome after a first half in which Newcastle occasionally threaten but only theoretically, nervous and hesitant when a shooting opportunity materialised.  The Hornets however enjoyed much the greater possession and occasionally snapped into life, passing the ball around in hypnotically comfortable rhythm at the back and probing, probing, before rattling into a much higher gear and slicing into the penalty area.  It was far from the best football we’ve played this season but it nonetheless should have seen us comfortably in the lead at the break… Deulofeu, a constant irritant, repeated his trick of rounding the keeper and missing the target, more forgivably than against Huddersfield, and later stabs a first time effortwide.  Mariappa does well with a far post header that’s blocked on the line, less well when snatching at a good chance that results from the subsequent, scruffy penalty area scramble, Success drove across the face of Dubravka forcing a smart stop (which I make at least two efforts on target, incidentally, not the publicised one?), several sorties provoked nervous, “just get it out” clearances.  Crucially, we didn’t get the goal.

3- Part of the issue was Newcastle’s unashamedly pragmatic set-up.  This was an away performance from the home side, determinedly destructive sitting players behind the ball and breaking.  It’s difficult to look fluid in the face of such an approach, and we did well enough for a while but wilted.  Having reached half time ahead on points if glancing slightly anxiously at the lack of chances taken we were confident that quality would out, that ultimately one of those crackling, overlapping, double-teaming attacks would pay off if we persisted.  We didn’t, so it didn’t.

It was a limp, underwhelming second half performance.  We looked heavy and deliberate before going behind – not complacent I don’t think, but perhaps our relatively comfortable league position lost us a degree of urgency.  Newcastle offered minimal threat before going ahead and next to nothing afterwards but all it took was Ayoze Perez – one of three substitutes necessitated by injury for the home side before the hour – being abandoned at a corner.  The choking inevitability of this miserable development enveloped the away end.

4- Even then, we had chances.  Good chances.   The best of these came to sub Stefano Okaka, who had a reasonable cameo as a battering ram and aerial target but  slung a shot at close range over a gaping goal, the ball across slightly behind him.  Earlier Success had artfully manufactured space for Roberto Pereyra to thump against the crossbar before the Nigerian was withdrawn for a welcome if spiky reappearance from Nathaniel Chalobah.

After a reasonable first half  in which he’d again displayed his expertise at controlling the ball with his chest and head and at occasionally spotting and executing a wicked through-ball, Success had struggled in the second in common with most of the team.  His failings were particularly visible, as he seemed to tire and was bullied by Newcastle’s defenders, suddenly unable to hold the ball up and give our attack a focus.  Pre-match discussion had suggested that Troy might struggle to win his place back;  evidence here of the value of Troy’s forcefulness of personality, his strength of character.  Isaac might get there, but isn’t there yet.

Nonetheless, the young striker is well in credit for the season having scored three and contributed plenty in four starts before today, three of which wins plus the draw with Spurs.  So the cheering of his substitution, of the substitution of a 22 year old who had continued to plug away, peppered the mistakes with good stuff and refused to hide despite the direction his afternoon was taking, was fuckwittery of the highest order comfortably eclipsing in terms of banal stupidity anything that happened on the pitch.

5- Yeah.  Defeat, then.  A bloody long way to come for an underwhelming outcome.  If there was a consolation it was that there are worse places to visit than Newcastle with its admirable carpet of proper pubs.  We visited a third before braving the train journey home.

As for getting used to being This Good?  Well here’s the answer:  we’re not that good, yet.  Not good enough that we can come to somewhere like this and fail to take chances and not expect to get a bloody nose.  It’s not black and white though, (not even in Newcastle).  Not just “good” (win) and “bad” (lose).  We’re still a good side and this is still remarkable.  Even the shitty away defeats are to be cherished.

Just… not too often.  Yoorns.

Foster 3, Femenía 3, Holebas 3, *Cathcart 3*, Mariappa 3, Hughes 2, Doucouré 3, Capoue 2, Pereyra 3, Deulofeu 3, Success 2
Subs: Gray (for Deulofeu, 66) 2, Okaka (for Hughes, 76) 0, Chalobah (for Success, 85) 0, Kabasele, Sema, Masina, Gomes


1. Harefield Hornet - 04/11/2018

Remarkedly similar game to the Fulham draw, the obvious difference being we managed to score on that occasion. Not too much to be grumpy about really- let’s hope a few of the missed opportunities yesterday are compensated by a few goals at St Mary’s next Saturday! – Well done to all those who made the long journey.

Matt Rowson - 04/11/2018

Similarities in that we dominated the first half but didn’t capitalise enough. Fulham were really good second half tho. Newcastle merely obdurate.

2. tonyfirasse - 04/11/2018

We were so clinical and effective against Wolves and Huddersfield, but the football gods were quick to bring us down to earth. We must continue to aim high Matt, yet also be wary of “vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other.” Any other Shakespearean analogies come to mind?

Simoninoz - 05/11/2018

Shakespeare? [William and not Craig I assume].
“Yon ******** has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” Not Deeney or Success – not lean. Not Holebas – never thinks. Possibly Deulofeu – better shooting by instinct before he has a chance to weigh the options. But he’s definitely dangerous.

3. reg - 04/11/2018

We haven’t seen enough of Deulofeu yet to know what type of player he’s going to be – a wonder goal every 10 games or a consistent performer.

4. Lincoln Hornet - 05/11/2018

Any thoughts on the ground?? First visit for me and I really didn’t like it if I’m honest, just far too far away from the action. That, coupled with Newcastle’s fans being expectedly quiet after their run of poor results and losing the game didn’t help either. Onwards and hopefully upwards.

Matt Rowson - 05/11/2018

The altitude is ludicrous… and contrary to the rules, away fans should be pitchside. But otherwise I like it.

5. Keith endean - 05/11/2018

Sorry it was all my fault. First match I’ve seen this season and the realisation that every time I take my stepson to a match we lose 1-0 he is now banned

6. Smudger Jnr - 05/11/2018

Thanks for your comments on Success. I needed to know i wasn’t alone in that opinion! I left the ground far more irritated about that unfathomable response than i did about the result. For me he contributed more across the game than many of the more senior players. Only behind Doucs and maybe Cathcart for me in terms of MoM. Pereryra and Hughes were quiet. Deulofeu far more wasteful. Holebas’ corner delivery onto the first defender’s head even more so.

Aside to that, I felt that the system didn’t quite work for once. Which was credit to Newcastle as much as anything. We do have the personnel these days to shake it op but didn’t which was disappointing. Gracia lacks a little confidence on that front sometimes. Thought it was an opportunity to go 4-3-3 with Chobs on for Hughes. A gamble possibly because it exposes the fullbacks, but moves GD to a more natural position. Kind of ended up with that at one point but with the wrong personnel, an odd front 3 of Success and Okaka either side of Grey!

Matt Rowson - 05/11/2018

In terms only of positives contributed Success was right up there. I gave him a 2 because he DID make a lot of mistakes. It’s a harsh 2 tho, because he didn’t hide and as you describe there were others who contributed much less.

Lincoln Hornet - 05/11/2018

Just watched the highlights and Success provided 2 passes to Delboy and Pereyra, one in each half which they both should arguably have scored with, certainly Delboy’s whilst Pereyras hit the bar. That alone for me leaves me baffled as to why people applauded when Isaac was subbed. Some fans are so fickle!!

7. david - 06/11/2018

My take away from the game after a period of reflection is that we need at least 7 players to be 8 out of 10 in order to win these away games. We are not quite good enough to roll teams likely to finish in the bottom half without a significant proportion of our team at the top of their game. I personally have been encouraged by success but I think Deeny still has a roll to play in keeping players honest in this regard.

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