Newcastle 1 Fulham 3 – Saturday 11 March 2017 3pm
Right then. I’m not sure anyone’s going to enjoy this much, given that my job here is to recount the worst performance of the season and all, but I’ll push on. This is the age of the information superhighway after all and the tale of this dismal defeat will be of interest to perusing Fulham fans, or obsessed mackems of course, who may be flicking through our site.
Two things happened today: United turned in their season low display and we saw the best team to visit St James this year put in an inspired showing. There was only going to be one winner from that equation really.
Not wanting to make excuses…but the schedule of Brighton to Huddersfield to Reading within a week, seemed to have taken its toll on a sluggish home team that had Dwight Gayle restored to the starting role up front. I sincerely hope that Gayle is re-establishing fitness as opposed to being included prematurely (perhaps with an eye on Chris Wood’s prominence in the leading scorer chart?) as this forgettable display at the head of a toothless attack was far from vintage Dwight.
Unfortunately, our number 9 was left chasing hopeful balls over the top as Newcastle resorted to long ball Larry tactics, largely due to the anonymity of an out of sorts Shelvey. By contrast, Tom Cairney was dominant in the middle of the park for Fulham. When the home defence panicked wildly at a counter attack and hashed the clearance, Cairney was on hand on 15 minutes to lash an unstoppable drive into the top corner, Darlow no chance.
The hope was that at half-time Rafa could regalvanise the team into something resembling league leaders but this hope swiftly dissipated, as Fulham doubled their lead within 5 minutes, Ryan Sessegnon slotting home Aluko’s back heel after carnage created by, yes, another swift counter attack.
Sessegnon had absolutely tore up the left hand side with ridiculous pace that few full backs could cope with. Annoyingly, we have one of those few full-backs as DeAndre Yedlin can match most of the human population for pace, but a niggling injury for him, saw Anita thrown in at right-back for one of the worst afternoons of his life, as the 16 year old dominated the flank.
Nine minutes later the game was over entirely, as Sessegnon slotted in his second and Fulham’s third. With half an hour remaining the feeling from the stands was more of fear as to how bad it could get, as opposed to hope for a Bristol City style salvage job.
Daryl Murphy, on for Gayle, affected some degree of salvage with a smart turn and shot on the edge of the box to give some respectability but the wave of pressure that should have followed was lacking, as Colback, Atsu Diame and Dummett all veered from the anonymous to the downright stinking in a thoroughly turgid team showing. The sight of perennial bright spark Ciaran Clark being subbed off with a knock, has to instil fear for the coming matches without his goal-saving interventions.
In the dying moments the spent Dummett fouled Sessegnon to give the teenager the chance at a memorable and deserved hat-trick from the spot. However, miserable self-promoter Tim Ream shoved the youngster aside to take for himself a kick that had zero chance of influencing the result. It was a small happy note to see him miss pathetically.
A fifth home defeat of the season and, with due credit to Fulham, an absolute horror show. Since being mugged by Blackburn in November, the home performances have veered from the efficient but unspectacular (Forest, Villa) to the shambolic (this, Bristol City, Sheffield Wed) with only two thoroughly convincing showings, coincidentally both against our next opponents, Birmingham. Let’s hope this is replicated at St Andrew’s as the persistence of Brighton and Huddersfield means our automatic spot is once again looking under threat.
Following Brum there are a pair of unquestionable must win games here v Wigan and Burton. Bankers on paper but if you look at their place in the table they are surrounded by sides who have taken points at SJP. The failure to fire at home is becoming a real concern, as letting sides come at us is neither practical nor acceptable.
It’s a hard competition but for me Mo Diame was the worst of a bad bunch today, with our lack of creativity from the number ten spot leaving everything to Shelvey. This has caused problems at home in the Championship but would be disastrous in the Premier League. If and when we do find our way over the line, I’d hope this is where the rebuilding starts.
We also need some lively candidates up the left hand side. Spotted a contender here today mind, here’s hoping NUFC can stay on track to be a bigger draw next season.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Fulham 3
Newcastle: Murphy 76
Fulham: Cairney 15, Sessegnon 51, 59
Possession was Fulham 62% Newcastle 38%
Total shots were Fulham 11 Newcastle 11
Shots on target were Fulham 4 Newcastle 4
Corners were Fulham 7 Newcastle 5
Referee: James Linington
Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Clark (Gamez 64), Dummett, Colback, Ritchie, Shelvey, Atsu, Diame (Murphy 61), Gayle (Gouffran 74)
Elliot, Hanley, Perez, Mitrovic
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