Newcastle 3 Burnley 3 Thursday 1 January 3pm
It all started so well; 45 minutes into the post-Pardew era and Newcastle had – Paul Dummett’s comic own goal and Cheick Tiote’s woeful performance aside – dominated a Burnley side with ease.
No disrespect to Burnley, but this was how watching Newcastle play against a newly promoted side at St James’ Park should be.
It has been so long since we’ve witnessed Newcastle dominate a weaker team with such positivity and creativity on the ball that I’d forgotten what it felt like. Even when Dummet’s header flew over the stranded Alnwick to level the scores, I somehow knew that we’d regain the lead.
In reality it may not have made any difference whatsoever, but in that first half against Burnley, it felt like the negative, creativity-inhibiting shackles of the Pardew era had been removed from the players. I’d go as far as to say that yesterday was the best first half performance I’ve seen from a Newcastle team in well over a year and at the interval John Carver’s managerial audition was going well.
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The second-half attitude of the players and their willingness to sit deep, invite pressure and go more direct had all the hallmarks of an Alan Pardew team, trying to defend a one-goal lead for an entire half of football without ever looking interested in extending it.
Granted, that kind of negative mental attitude doesn’t just disappear overnight and no matter what coach had been in the dugout yesterday, I’m fairly sure the second half performance would have been virtually the same. Especially given that we’ve only won 5 home league games by more than one goal since we finished 5th two and a half years ago (one of those was against 9-men Stoke and another against an already-relegated Cardiff side).
However, whilst I would be extremely wary of laying the blame for the woefully insipid second half at John Carver’s door, given he only had 2 days on the training ground with the players, his choice of substitutions bordered on the disgraceful.
My ideal candidates to take on the manager’s job at Gallowgate are apparently only available in the summer. Therefore I viewed yesterday as John Carver’s audition to take the reins temporarily until the season ends in May.
I have to say, despite the encouraging first half and his admirable honesty in his post-match interviews (wasn’t it nice to hear no excuses for once), in my eyes he failed his audition miserably when it came to his substitutions.
Any hopes that Carver would instil a more sensible or positive approach to the game than Pardew, evaporated with the introductions of Adam Armstrong and Massadio Haidara to the fold.
The first ten minutes of the second half were a clear indication of how we were losing our grip on the game. Therefore, considering our main tactic in the second half was to go direct, what exactly did Carver think 5ft 7 Armstrong was going to contribute, especially when, in my opinion, Emmanuel Riviere had impressed with his link-up play and physical presence in the first half (if not his finishing)?
Whilst the jury is still out on Armstrong, he is clearly not going to win many headers against, or hold off, 6ft+ tall centre halves.
And whilst the removal of Riviere didn’t help when we needed as much physical presence as possible to knock Burnley out of their stride, the next substitution had Pardew written all over it.
Makeshift winger Gouffran off, left-back Haidara on. Two left-backs on the pitch with the score level at 2-2 whilst £12m of attacking talent in Remy Cabella rots on the bench.
Yes, Cabella hasn’t looked great when he’s played so far but he has created the joint most amount of chances of any NUFC player this season and yesterday would have been the ideal time to get him on, running at tired legs after Burnley had used all three subs before half-time.
I would love it if he were to prove me wrong but after yesterday’s tactical decisions I’m not sure Carver is the man to see us through until the summer, certainly he’s not the man to take us forward on a permanent basis, whether he’s liked in the dressing room or not.
His substitutions against Burnley suggested that he is cut from the same uninspiring managerial cloth as Alan Pardew. Which is exactly what the club doesn’t need if it is to properly utilise the often brilliant players like Ayoze Perez and Daryl Janmaat that Graham Carr is capable of unearthing.
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Team: Alnwick, Janmaat, Steven Taylor (Williamson 60), Coloccini, Dummett (Cabella 63), Tiote, Colback, Gouffran (Haidara 71), Sissoko, Riviere (Armstrong 57), Perez
Unused Subs: Woodman, Cabella, Anita, Santon
Ref: Mike Dean