Before this match I predicted that one thing it wouldn’t be was goalless, well for the first 45 minutes it looked like that was going to be the only thing to report back on!
Newcastle just never got going while the home side showed not much more ambition, one Harper tip over the sum total of what he had to do first half.
The surprise decision to pair Bigirimana with Tiote and leave Anita on the bench maybe worked to an extent defensively but in terms of taking the game to Reading it was as dead a duck as you could find.
Maybe the idea was to give Ben Arfa more freedom with Jonas also alongside Tiote and his ‘mini-me’ but this was one of Hatem’s off days and it is a bit of a worry that if he doesn’t perform then we seem to not have much to offer going towards their goal.
You can’t legislate for things like Cabaye missing out with a tooth abscess but it does underline the need for some extra creative options to be found from somewhere.
The second half thankfully was the opposite of the first but the fact that Newcastle’s two goals came from our only two shots on target tells you pretty much most of the story.
Newcastle did start brighter in that second period and Cisse worked an opening some ten minutes in, only for a last gasp defensive block. A minute later and we’d lost yet another defender to injury with Steven Taylor replaced by Perch after not being able to shake off an earlier knock.
Perch dropped into the middle with Tavernier going out on the right but they’d hardly settled in those positions when Reading took the lead, poor defending allowed Kebe to stroll into the box before his shot deflected off Perch and past Harper.
Maybe this had done some good though as Tiote got a rare assist within what seemed like seconds of their goal, his chip to the edge of the box brilliantly volley in by Demba Ba.
Unfortunately it was then 3 goals in only four or five minutes as Tavernier was tricked by McAnuff and the cross finished off with Hunt’s headed finish.
Ben Arfa did start to get a little more into the match as play opened up slightly but he couldn’t impose himself, a couple of long range efforts his main contribution.
With ten minutes left it looked like a penalty as Ba went down after a challenge by the keeper but instead the decision went Reading’s way, possibly for a supposed offside but difficult to tell.
Ferguson and Shola had replaced Bigirimana and Cisse with twenty minutes left and the Irish full-back/winger continued his cameo from Wednesday with a clutch of excellent left wing crosses. On 83 minutes one of those found its man and Demba Ba finished it off with his head then arm but it was accidental and luckily the ref didn’t spot it.
Last ten minutes didn’t see Newcastle take that equaliser as the chance to take the three points as instead the home side bounced back with a fine save by Harper keeping out one excellent shot, whilst Tavernier’s nemesis, McAnuff struck the post.
A point was the least of my expectations beforehand but on this performance a point was more than a fair outcome for Newcastle.
I think the problem Alan Pardew has is that if he wants to shake it up by putting the odd younger player in then it is hard to gauge because often they do well coming on as a sub only to not follow it through when they are given a start.
A big thumbs up for Demba Ba who already has six goals including a couple of goal of the season contenders already, two from only two real chances today is a great return.
It might take something similar next weekend against Manchester United if we play like this again.
Alan Pardew “We are struggling for rhythm this year and are not playing with the same exuberance as last year, today was a sign of that. We can’t rely on spirit all the time. No mistake, Demba Ba’s second goal hit his hand, Shane Ferguson put the ball in a great area and it hit Demba’s head and hit his hand but it’s all about the delivery of the ball. Reading gave us a going over today”.
Newcastle: Harper, Perch, Williamson, Steven Taylor (Tavernier 56), Santon, Ben Arfa, Bigirimana (Ferguson 69), Tiote, Gutierrez, Ba, Cissa (Shola 69)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Anita, Obertan, Sammy
Reading: McCarthy, Cummings, Mariappa, Gorkss, Shorey, Kebe (McCleary 70), Leigertwod, Karacan, McAnuff, Hunt (Le Fondre 86), Pogrebnyak (Roberts 78)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Crowd: 24,097 (2076 Away Fans)
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