Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1 Saturday 19 December 5.30pm
Goals: NUFC Coloccini 38 – AVFC Ayew 61
So, after two fine unexpected wins came this. The bottom club, winless in 15 games and getting to the point of no return relegation-wise with a measly six points, not to mention the therapeutic delight it would give to knock a nail in their coffin after their appalling behaviour in 2009.
Under the pressure of actually being favourites to win, we all feared United would fail to deliver on some level.
There are really two ways of reviewing this game.
First and foremost, it must be said the weather played a hefty role as a previously pleasantly mild day, turned apocalyptic for the half five kick-off. It absolutely belted down, particularly in the latter stages of the first half, when the waterfalls of rain flowing off the slanted Gallowgate stand brought about murmurs of abandonment.
However, I would debate whether the rain cost us a chance to win this game as much as our own management. The second way to look at this would be to once again voice the concern I’ve had all season, that we have no attacking plan and rely on hitting opponents on the break.
This is all well and good in a difficult away match, but the fact that we didn’t set up with more ambition at home to a poor opponent who were there for the taking, is extremely worrying and suggestive of a one-dimensional, shot-shy approach that could well end in this fixture being a consideration at Championship level next season.
The retention of the Spurs starting line-up was an indication of the intention to maintain, although Cisse did not last too long up front, missing two half-chance headers and clocking up a few offsides before going down just after the half hour with an injury that could see him miss out on a January exit (and us on a replacement). Mitrovic came off the bench at the worst point of the developing monsoon and waded around to little effect.
The striker situation was of no immediate concern as Newcastle took the lead from an unlikely source. De Jong’s corner skidded through the sodden box and found the unmarked Coloccini at the back post. He had the right idea in hitting it hard and low, sploshing the ball past Guzan for a definite rain-assisted opener.
This was no less than we deserved having had the lion’s share of possession in the soggy first half, with the main fear that the appalling conditions would see the lead rendered irrelevant if the ref was prompted to abandonment.
The downpour let up a bit though and the second half became more playable, with the massive splashes thrown up by each kick reducing to smaller splats, still the ball was slower moving and heavier looking. This made the two incidents on which the game turned even more unlikely. First, De Jong missed a golden chance to double the lead from Wijnaldum’s cross, heading wide of the goal when scoring looked a certainty.
There was no way a side as bereft as Villa would have come back from 2-0, so it was all the more galling that they went up the other end and came back from 1-0. By this point the ball must have weighed more than a decent sized bag of taties, so it was equally as hard to believe that Jordan Ayew found the skill to send a curving effort into the top corner.
Elliot had no chance, which was probably the only way Villa would score following another solid showing from our stand-in keeper. The introduction of massive lump Rudy Gestede up front at half time had given the visitors fresh impetus and we had Elliot to thank for keeping them at bay during the ensuing period of pressure they exerted, with a fine tip over from Gestede’s dipping header the pick.
United recovered to take more of a foothold in the game but could not fashion the breakthrough. The introduction of Thauvin improved the shape as Wijnaldum was released from his left wing prison and allowed through the middle where he has done so much damage this season.
However, his finishing was weak when put through for our best chance to win the game. Perez likewise was found wanting, blasting over as it became increasingly apparent this was going to be a frustrating afternoon.
Without doubt, two points dropped. Hopefully the draw will be inconsequential to Villa and will do something towards keeping us narrowly afloat.
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Possession was 47% Newcastle and 53% Villa
Total shots was 8 for Newcastle and Villa 10
Shots on target was Newcastle 4 and Villa 7
While corners was Newcastle 3 and Villa 7
Team: Elliot, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Dummett, Colback, Anita (Thauvin 71), Sissoko, Wijnaldum, de Jong (Perez 59), Cisse (Mitrovic 33)
Unused Subs: Darlow, Mbabu, Gouffran, Tiote
Ref: Martin Atkinson
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