It was over the line!!! Newcastle report

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Latics 1-0 Newcastle
Saturday 15th October 2005

I’m not sure whether it’s my ears; the extra crowd noise; the sense of occasion or the sheer softness of the Woo woo.  “Let’s hang on” the anthem of two seasons back seems to have all but disappeared and yet it’s more appropriate this season than any of the last ten, no more so than Saturday’s game where, after being reduced to ten men, it was real backs to the wall stuff.  Yet again though, this seemed harder for the fans to cope with than it did the defence.

I’d earmarked this game as the one that would bring the Premier League home for me, and early signs were promising.  Newcastle looked like a side that were going to pass the ball about and try to bring the game to us.  It didn’t take long for it to become clear that they were flattering to deceive, had no change of gear and no cutting edge.

I’d jokingly wondered during the week whether or not Parker and Owen might be regretting their summer decisions.  On this showing they’re not especially missed.  Parker’s performance in midfield little more than competent, perhaps more reflective of the team’s overall performance than anything else, and yet if he wasn’t their man of the match he wasn’t far off.  Owen on the other hand looked a shadow of his reputation, starved of space and quality of service it must have been a frustrating hour and a half.

The general consensus seems to be that we were the better team in the first half, if that’s true then take it as a sign of Newcastle’s poor play than anything to do with how we played.  In the early stages the stand out players were Roberts for Latics and Bowyer for the opposition, both seeing shot rebound off the post.  The Newcastle man coming off worse in a 50/50 challenge with Baines and taking his bow before the half hour was up.

Parker and Faye struggled to get involved in the first half giving Kavanagh and Francis the room and time to dictate play, although it took the rest of the team some time to realise it.  It was 40 minutes (of scrappy and frustrating play) before they took advantage of it.  A clever flick from Camara leaving Francis clear to advance on goal, just as he might have shot the midfielder fed a lovely little ball through two Newcastle defenders for Roberts to turn and run on to.  Given had his angles right, but Roberts’ shot bounced under him and slowly towards goal despite the efforts of the two defenders that on first impressions looked favourite to keep the ball out but on second viewing had absolutely no chance.

As much as the first half belonged to Latics, the second belonged to one man.  Newcastle looked a totally different side with Emre on in the place of Faye.  Incisive, imaginative and, more importantly, dangerous; the front two now getting something like the service they craved in the first period.  For the most part though, Latics coped.  I’m not mad enough to suggest they did it comfortably, but they stood up, put the hard work in and got their just reward.  You have to wonder how long a pair of aging centre backs can cope, defending with this intensity, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge if it comes.

I was tempted to not mention the referee, or any of the ‘incidents’.  At least it would have given a more balanced view than most of the media, but I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t;

The Owen Penalty
Not sure on this one.  Baines definitely had his arms on him, but Owen was holding him off.  Not quite six and two threes but certainly not clear cut.  Enough doubt there not to give it.

The Ameobi Penalty
I don’t actually recall this in the game, but have seen it enough times since.  First time around there’s no doubt, Filan has dragged their player down and it should be a spot kick.  Second time around and, as Mr Kamara kindly points out, Filan has touched the ball.  No penalty.  To be honest I still think that there’s a good shout.  Yes he got the ball, but the big Aussie then impedes their fellow, would have been harsh in that respect, but it could easily have been given.

The ‘Goal’
The general consensus is that the ball crossed the line, and I’m not going to dispute that, but as great as super slow motion and virtual replay technology is I have yet to see a shot that proves conclusively what happened.  Although the virtual replay shots show the ball over the line, it also seems to have shrunk to about half the usual size.  From the other side of the coin, if the goal had been given, we would have been equally aggrieved because of the foul on De Zeuuw.

McCulloch

To be honest it was a bit daft.  It might have been nowhere near as bad as Essien’s challenge in the Chelsea/Bolton game, but it was bad enough.  A harsh sending off?  Maybe, but to be honest Lee could do with the three weeks rest that the ban will give him.

Now reading that back it could give the impression that the ref did alright.  Maybe for the wrong reasons, but most of the decisions ended up the right way.  That would be way too generous.  Mr Dowd was over fussy, and could have dealt with each of the above situations with a little more authority.  There was a phase in the second half were he seemed to realise he was down on his quota of bookings and flashed his cards a bit.  The big decisions may have gone against Newcastle, but he was poor all afternoon, and for both sides.

If we’d been on the back foot for most of the second half, the sending off did nothing to help.  From that point it was all about defending the 1-0 lead.  That said we still managed a couple of breaks and produced one of our best chances of the game.  A so knackered he looked like he was running through treacle, Jason Roberts chasing a half clearance to the half way line, and forcing a mistake that put us three on two with Kavanagh on the ball.  His pass to Connolly (on for the Henri “dummy well spat” Camara) was perfectly timed a better touch from the striker would surely have seen us two nil up, as it was Carr was given time to get a good block in.

That was about it.  Not the best performance of the season, but one that was enough to deserve something from the game.  Geordies may be a little put out that it was three points and not one, and I certainly wouldn’t have argued if that had been the case.  At the end of the day it was a case of them expecting a win and us wanting one, nine times out of ten, and we should all know what happens in that situation by now.

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