It was an unusual game against Leeds, where I thought Newcastle United went about the game in a more positive fashion than of late. Certainly the result didn’t reflect the dominance of the home side and Newcastle should have been out of sight before the fourth official held up the amount of stoppage time.
I wasn’t at the game (working) but there was a TV in front of me and from what I saw at the time, the only thing that stood in the way of a 3-0 win was Robert Green in the Leeds goal. He was immense as Newcastle tested him time and time again and as the Sky Sports commentator stated in the first half: ‘his goal is living a charmed life’.
I thought Mitrovic looked interested and certainly produced a good display and showed something I haven’t seen from him, his movement was better and seemed to ‘get in the ear’ of the referee and his assistants, highlighted when he was brought down and told the referee (backed with 50,000 others) that the linesman was flagging and a free-kick was required.
His sidekick Perez was different, the neat little touches were there and the running was evident, he just seems to lack that little bit of intelligence, knowing when to run or when to stand still and allow a defender to leave him in space, certainly if he had taken one of the few chances that came his way Leeds would have folded.
The cut and thrust from Ritchie and Shelvey was evident and Newcastle seemed to run riot, Hayden and Gouffran were unspectacular but workmanlike, allowing the rest of the forward line to miss the many chances that would haunt us late on.
The defence was rarely troubled and full-backs Anita and Dummett had cracking games, supporting the players in front of them on the attack.
After Lascelles had nodded us into a 1-0 lead, I honestly had a good sense of positivity about the remaining 20 odd minutes.
This is what teams have to do to get promoted, nick goals when you’re playing a team off the park and not worry that you haven’t smashed them for six, the result being more important than the performance. And so it proved.
The sequence of events that led to the finale of the match can be highlighted in a few sharp but important moments.
A tired Issac Hayden is brought off and Jack Colback is brought on. Cue a collective groan around the ground and from the TV audience.
It would be careless to blame one man for the last minute switch off, but it certainly didn’t fill me with positivity, more dread that a few fouls would be occurring in the last ten or so minutes with him on the field. Surely a tired Hayden is better than a liability Colback?
Mo Diame replaces Matt Ritchie. I’ve never been sure why substitutions are made at this stage of the game other than to run the clock down. Funny that.
Some buffoon decides to invade the pitch. Subsequently identified as a Leeds fan, can take ‘pride’ in the fact that this no doubt influenced the referee into adding a further minute or so to proceedings.
With some classic Alan Shearer style corner flag hugging, Mitrovic and Shelvey attempt to run down the clock, unfortunately in Shelvey’s case that he ‘cleverly’ adds in the ‘letting the ball roll under his foot’ jape in order to waste more time. Brainless and booked in equal measure.
Leeds promptly start an attack and push the ball out onto the left hand flank where Colback steams over and jumps in, bringing down Kemar Roofe. I’m sure Jack thought he was being clever in halting the play at such a late stage of the game, stopping an attack and ‘taking one for the team’.
Sadly he seems to do this with alarming regularity and not just in the last few seconds. Put simply, he is a walking yellow card. Brainless and booked in equal measure.
The resultant free-kick ends up with a ball being lofted into the box whereby Chris Wood shoots past Karl Darlow with Jamaal Lascelles once again going AWOL and allowing Wood acres of space to score. Annoying and predictable in equal measure.
A hugely deflating period after what had gone before it, with many people (including myself) pointing to the performance and the stats to show what a good display this had been, but with the old adages that stats can mean nothing and a performance means little if you don’t win the game in the end.
That said, it’s not a time to panic.
Brighton look set to take the title unless they switch off in the remaining games, while we are on course for promotion at the first attempt.
It hasn’t been as pretty as it could have been but over the next 180 minutes of football we will go up and be rid of some of the god awful officials and teams down here.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])