Newcastle 1 Stoke 1 Sunday 8 February 2.05pm
Despite cheaper prices funded by the Premier League via the away fans fund initiative, the fortunate ones were surely you lot who didn’t take ‘advantage’ of the £20 adult and £5 kids tickets today.
Proof that price isn’t everything was shown by the fact that this game produced the lowest (so far) crowd of the season at St. James’ Park.
A combination of poor to average performances from the black and whites, as well as the nature of the opposition, even had a decent number of season ticket holders not even bothering, judging by the spare seats dotted around us.
Walters went close for the visitors before a clever Newcastle move, totally out of keeping with the majority of the game, almost put United one up. Racing onto the ball on the left hand side, Moussa Sissoko flighted the perfect ball towards the near post where Ayoze Perez helped it on with a clever flick header, Begovic making an improvised save with his arm, very reminiscent of the way Shay Given made a number of unorthodox saves in his time at Newcastle.
Apart from that the first half just seemed to pass by with a lot of niggly fouls (31 in total over the game from the two teams) and a bit like those moments when you are driving on a motorway, you suddenly become aware that you have travelled another ten or twenty miles but struggle to consciously remember doing it.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 42% Newcastle and 58% Stoke
Total shots was 9 for Newcastle and Stoke 7
Shots on target was Newcastle 3 and Stoke 3
While corners was Newcastle 5 and Stoke 8
Perez again came closest as the half came to an end, Cabella feeding the Spanish forward who sent his right footed shot past the left hand post.
Second half saw as usual no instant substitutions to change things, some things never change.
Instead it was the usual 60/65 minute mark when we had the possibility of things taking a turn for the better. Papiss Cisse replaced the anonymous Anita but to be honest, the Senegal striker was pretty poor and his touch atrocious. I know he has done well this season in terms of goals from the bench, but I do think he is a player who just needs to be on the pitch from the start, and then he has a knack of getting on the end of things. So the more minutes on pitch equals more chance of something falling for him.
Ayoze Perez is also beginning to look a fading presence, still looking our best (only?) chance of scoring most of the time but somebody who either needs the help of a Cisse playing alongside him and/or taking out of the firing line for a while to recharge and refocus.
The second sub sent the natives restless, John Carver bringing off Remy Cabella instead of Sammy Ameobi who had been hopeless and anonymous if they are both possible, while the Frenchman was contributing pretty much any creativity on offer.
Either way, Obertan’s introduction did produce an instant return, with 74 minutes gone his run down the right then produced a low cross which Sissoko touched back to Jack Colback and he did the rest. Stoke not impressed as Colback should have picked up a second yellow by then, something the player accepted after the final whistle.
Newcastle looked far from comfortable trying to see the game out and it is depressing to accept that such a limited and soul destroying team as Stoke deserved their eventual point.
Obertan again started this move, high up the pitch on the right he elected not to head forwards towards the corner flag and instead passed the ball/buck backwards, this continuing over four or five passes until Mike Williamson, who had been really poor, almost left Tim Krul short. Luckily he was on his toes but his rushed clearance ended up back in the box three or four Stoke passes later, Williamson going walkabout as Crouch headed over Krul and into the middle of the goal just under the bar. Terrible goalkeeping as well in my opinion and perhaps the fan frustration at players such as Williamson allows Krul to get away a bit with conceding goals like this.
Afterwards John Carver said that they had targeted six points from the Hull, Stoke and Palace matches and so if there is a win at Selhurst Park then Newcastle will have come out ahead.
Let’s hope his glass half full comments become reality.
Team: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Haidara, Colback, Anita (Cisse 65), Sissoko, Cabella (Obertan 69), Ameobi (Abeid 86), Perez
Unused Subs: Woodman, Riviere, Gouffran, Dummett
Ref: Kevin Friend