It’s a rare occasion when two Premier League managers can walk away from a game happy but both Paul Jewell and Glen Roeder can take enough positives away from this game to give either side a sunny outlook for the rest of the season. The result aside indications are that both sides have moved on a little from last April’s encounter at St James Park.
Newcastle may have lost both a leader and goal scorer in Alan Shearer but in his absence both Scott Parker and Shola Ameobi look ready to take on those mantles. Parker put in a high energy performance, determined to get his side a result, prepared when needed (and it often was) to grab Newcastle by the scruff of the neck and drag them into action. His run into the box, for the opener, was typical of his play on the day and not bad for a player usually thought of in more defensive terms.
The other goal scorer, Ameobi, has long lived under the shadow of his more illustrious predecessor, his gangly frame and uncomfortable gait making it hard for people to take to him. The promise of a run in the side and the job of leading the line seem to have done him good and he showed the skill and strength to indicate that this may finally be his season to come good.
Latics have a right to be disappointed with the result, without the wasteful finishing and rejected penalty appeal things could have been very different, but that only tells half of the story. No matter how long they have trained together how many practice games they have had, 6 new signings are going to take time to fit in. Early indications are that when they do, we’ll have a good side.
Goals aside, the new back four dealt with what Newcastle could throw at them, there are questions about a lack of pace, but it’s too early to say how much of a problem that will be. Into midfield and a steady performance by Landzaat was over shadowed by an excellent one from the latest addition, Valencia. Without a pre season and after only a week at the club he still managed to keep the Newcastle defence busy.
Up front, both Camara and Heskey missed chances they could have done better with, but caused problems all afternoon. They may not be there as a partnership yet but signs are that will come and if they can bring the best out of each other then there will be goals in it. It was Heskey who had the most impact on the day.
The Geordies had struggled to deal with him in the air throughout, so it came as no surprise to see him rise above two defenders, who may as well not have been there, to nod the ball into McCulloch’s path. The goal that followed was something special. We’re used to see McCulloch smash them in from the edge of the box, but this time subtlety was the order of the day, curling the ball around several defenders and out of the keeper’s reach.
Ameobi’s winner may have followed shortly after. Latics continued to press and should not have left the pitch aggrieved that a penalty was not given after the ball struck Titus Bramble’s hand. That combined with the lack of added time was enough to see Jewell on the pitch at the final whistle, berating the referee for his performance.
In all, this game was a complete contrast to last season’s opener. Then you had a suspicion that we’d seen the best the team had to offer now we have a feeling of real potential. As things stand we should be feeling equally as optimistic as we did after that sunny day last August.
If there is a concern, it’s that the naivety that saw Latics punished so often at the back end of last season is still there. Having equalised it would have been acceptable to steady the ship and hold on for the draw, especially as it was an away game. It may not be the current Latics way, but the team needs to realise that it’s ok to be boring, once in a while
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