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Newcastle United 1 Watford 1 (15/01/2022) 15/01/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1-  So it’s not been a normal week, and this isn’t going to be a normal match report.  My COVID ticket came up on Monday;  after a couple of days of feeling dodgy I’m basically fine now and should thus be grateful for fortune, for the benefits of being vaccinated and so on.  As an asthmatic and a diabetic I’ve no real right to have expected such an easy ride.

But if I’m allowed to feel sorry for myself briefly the timing scotched what would have been a fine weekend, including costing me my (and the similarly afflicted Daughter 2)’s first away strike of the season.  I am now counting on LFTs giving me an early pass before a planned theatre outing on Wednesday, else I really WILL be grumpy.

Anyway.  This’ll be a briefer than normal account, reverting to reflections rather than a blow-by-blow because obviously I wasn’t there, and based on the stream that I would of watched if I did that sort of thing which obviously I don’t.

2- Firstly, the team looks a whole lot more credible all of a sudden.  The new boys of course, we’ll get to them… but also Foster and Dennis back in the fold, Cleverley finding his way back, Kabs on the bench.  Believable.  Post-AFCON you add Louza in particular to the mix and Sarr in the goodness of time and we have a team again at last.

And the debutants all looked good.  Hassane Kamara looked a bit excitable but exciting too, quick, dogged, discipline and determined.  One hell of an athlete, his afterburners saw him scorch the St James Park turf a couple of times and the leap that inadvertently took out Ryan Fraser was extraordinary.  Samir, meanwhile was part of a defence that held together well – Newcastle’s “one shot on target” conceals a good number of deliveries into the box in the first half in particular that we just about got away with but we did get away with it.  Nobody needs reminding of how often we’ve crumbled in the face of the merest pressure this season and Samir’s obdurate performance was part of that (peppered with a goodly amount of shouting and pointing in as much as that can be judged from a stream which obviously I wasn’t).  And Edo Kayembe gave us a much more solid presence at the back of the midfield;  he got forward too, playing one fabulous slide rule pass through for Joshua King in the second half and tantalisingly looking as if he was lining up a blind-side free kick around the outside of the wall before Emmanuel Dennis pulled rank in the first half.  Looks perfectly plausible that he and Louza could fit into the same midfield.

Worth noting again how well we’ve done in getting these guys lined up to come in so early in the window.  Contrast this with the lack of activity elsewhere in the Premier League – of the rest, only the urgent and well-backed Newcastle and the less urgent but still well-backed Villa have brought in anyone significant.

3- There are problems still, quite obviously. We got a few breaks in the first half against a side that, for all that they’ve brought in two disappointingly sensible looking signings, have been a bit pathetic for much of the season.  Kieran Trippier is a hell of a weapon… but you’d like to have seen a bit more assertiveness in dealing with those deliveries. 

There’s also got to be a concern that in many ways this was a game made for us, made for us to execute our threat such as it is.  A blunt forward line in front of an expectant crowd is asking to be caught on the break as it was here four years ago and we didn’t do nearly well enough transitioning the ball in the first half.  You want to see King, JP and Dennis spiralling away and forcing Newcastle to look over their shoulders, that wasn’t happening enough.

Perhaps reflecting that we look like a side that hasn’t won in a long time.  On top of the unfamiliarity of three new senior players there’s a tentativeness borne of thinking about things rather too much.  This was evident in much of our attacking play, even in a vastly improved second half (accommodated, it must be conceded, by Newcastle’s own caution in sitting back at one goal up).  So many of those counters were just a little bit of cockiness away from bearing fruit, King and Sissoko in particular overthinking what should have been straightforward finishes.

4- So thank heavens for João Pedro.  The goal, obviously, we’ll get to that, but overall the gradual flowering of the Brazilian continued with a performance full of personality. Not always entirely positively executed, admittedly… when Dennis made sure that everybody knew about Trippier’s snide arm in his chest on the touchline in the first half, JP was getting in faces straight away.  Thereafter he was the focus of the crowd, not to mention the Newcastle defence but composed himself and was a force for good throughout… quick, clever, observant and effective, he is as big an asset as Ismaïla Sarr.

His wasn’t the only strong performance.  Jeremy Ngakia put in a punchy show at right-back despite Newcastle frequently overloading down their left flank…  his mistake lead to Newcastle’s goal, but that was his only blemish and one he gets away with nine times out of ten.  The precocious Saint-Maximin capitalised, making the error seem worse than it was.

5- Nonetheless, in the dying minutes it felt like more of the same.  The variety in our performances of late had only been between games in which we we’ve been murdered and games in which we’ve put up a fight but not quite been good enough or lucky enough or simply enough.  

This time, however, we got a break.  And it’s a break that as above Newcastle had invited, and a break that we earned through persistence and a bit of quality, through substitute Kiko pulling out a bomb of a cross under ferocious and aggressive pressure and that man João Pedro leaping impossibly above much taller, much bigger opponents to thump a header past Dubravka.  In a small study in Bedfordshire I would have been wildly celebrating the development with Daughters 1 and 2 had we been watching a stream, which of course we weren’t.

How significant that goal will prove to be, time will tell.  It feels significant, for all that we couldn’t quite capitalise upon our momentum, having had much the better of the last half hour of the game, by burgling a winner.  It feels pivotal.  We remain, somehow, outside the relegation zone.  We (may) have the opportunity to pull ourselves seven points clear of the relegation zone before Newcastle play again.

A point’s a point, “any away point is a good one in the Premier League” and so on.  But recovering this point in these circumstances is more valuable still.  As an aside our second draw of the season backs up the suggestion that we’re suddenly better equipped to grind things out, for all that it comes against the same team against we earned our first.

It’s going to be a tight squeeze.  But we’re far from done.

Yoooorns.

Foster 3, Ngakia 3, Kamara 4, Cathcart 3, Samir 3, Kayembe 4, Sissoko 3, Kucka 2, *João Pedro 4*, Dennis 3, King 3
Subs: Femenía (for Ngakia, 66) 4, Cleverley (for Kucka, 77) NA, Hernández (for Dennis, 84) NA, Morris, Kabasele, Sierralta, Tufan, Bachmann

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Comments»

1. Big Al - 15/01/2022

Firstly, glad you seem to be riding out covid. It similarly arrived in our house last night, the youngest having commandeered the TV as part of his splendid isolation.

Similarly bereft of any stream to tempt me, I began musing on our team. Have we ever had such a similarly-pronounced squad?

King, Kabasele, Kamara, Kiko, Kucka, Kayembe, Cathcart, Claverley, Cucho, Caetano. Partial entries from Ken, Kwadwo and Nkoulou.

I’m getting flashbacks to the Trevor Steven/Stevens England team of the 80s.

Big Al - 15/01/2022

* Claverley, not Claverley

Also forgot Conteh and, of course, Claudio

PEDantic - 17/01/2022

For those of us old enough, the early 70s ‘W’s team: Walker, Welbourne, Williams etc.

2. Jeff - 15/01/2022

Thought it was a bold statement to see all 3 new boys start. Makes the Burnley game that bit more promising. Most of the ‘predicted lineups’ in the papers and elsewhere online were miles off the actual team (almost all starting Ken to my utter despair) so I loved seeing this team sheet.
I think a win at Turf Moor might see us fly. Here’s hoping…

3. Ray Knight - 16/01/2022

Yes glad Matt you got over the latest round of Covid. I recently lost a seemingly healthy 54 year old cousin to this till unpredictable virus. Back to the match and there is no doubt this was an absolutely MASSIVE point. After seeing JP against Chelsea at home, it suddenly dawned on me he was coming of age. Today’s performance confirmed that for me. Good to see Foster back and solid debuts by the three newbies. At least 4 points from the next two games lifts us clear. Keep the faith that we can do it!

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2022

Sorry to read your news Ray. Hang in there. Yes, a point would have been a reasonable outcome when judged before the game. In the circumstances it’s tremendous.

4. Harefield Hornet - 16/01/2022

It would have been extremely unfair not to have got at least a point yesterday, given the collective determination in the performance. As has been said, better finishing would have sealed the win. All the usual lazy pundits predicted the home win which made it feel even better and the psychological benefits of this draw shouldn’t be underestimated in any way. Very impressive debutants and a really mature performance from JP – I just wish Sissoko could **********shoot straight ! – Surely the roof will come off when one eventually flies in!

5. skipton65 - 16/01/2022

‘We look like a side that hasn’t won in a long time’ is exactly right. It’s taken 56 days to get that point yesterday. That’s two months for a team to feel they’re forever pushing the rock uphill only to see it fall down again. That’s why Sissoko missed the target. He wasn’t trying to hit the crowd. Let’s hope they can encourage each other to wrestle a point out of Turf Moor.

Harefield Hornet - 16/01/2022

Wasn’t knocking Moussa in any way – think he’s terrific – just looking forward to him actually sticking one in the net!

6. Graham French - 16/01/2022

I accompanied my QPR supporting partner to Loftus Road yesterday, following the updates of our game on my phone, at first anxiously & then with a mounting sense of gloom. Then Joao Pedro’s goal flashed up & I had to restrain myself from leaping up in my seat. Fortunately I was able to do that a couple of minutes later as Charlie Austin’s winner caused much rejoicing among the Hoops’ faithful!


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