Before the Blackburn game, I must admit that as a Newcastle United fan I was starting to look at the table with an air of confidence, opposing fans may call it arrogance.
After the Blackburn defeat I still felt that we were on track to go on another run and build a sizeable lead – that spending in January may not be necessary – instead saving what transfer budget we have for the summer and the Premier League.
During the midweek, the League Cup exit to Hull was deeply disappointing, a simple switch off after Diame’s goal allowed Hull to score immediately and after that our chance had gone. I remember saying before the game that Newcastle were more than capable of beating Hull and using that optimism and momentum, we could go to Nottingham and get something to cap the week.
Unfortunately and somewhat predictably, I also stated that it would be well within the capabilities and traditions of Newcastle United to lose all three.
The Blackburn defeat I instantly forgave as an exercise in squad rotation with a view to the cup match.
Losing at Hull was dismissed by myself as a one-off – with the two legged semi-final against top opposition needless and that the likelihood of beating a top team in the final, as nice as it would have been to get there, would be remote. The two defeats could have been mentally wiped out depending on what we did on the Trent last Friday night.
The game in question started with the usual from Newcastle: patient build up, a little probing without really anything special. The standard stuff away from home this season, hoping to nick something and sit on it, safe in the knowledge that even a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I wasn’t amused when Steve Martin (and his assistant) failed to spot a blatant sumo-wrestling manoeuvre on Ciaran Clark. I then resigned myself to a long 60 minutes when Jonjo Shelvey was dismissed, but was annoyed when seeing a replay of the reaction of Henri Lansbury on the deck, with the Forest man seeming to not know which part of his body to grab first, having made an obligatory glance to see if the referee had clocked him.
Not long afterwards, further annoyance when Ciaran Clark’s goal was disallowed for something that goes unpunished at every set-piece in every game up and down the land. Put simply, the Forest defender was far too soft. Worse followed when a ball from Yedlin was prevented from reaching a Newcastle player by striking the forearm of Kasami in the penalty area. Frustration and annoyance gave way to genuine anger.
For the rest of the half, the side did the fans proud and the possession was overwhelmingly in our favour, then up stepped Matt Ritchie to score.
The joy didn’t last long as moments later the farce continued as Steve Martin produced yet another moment of utter insanity and after ‘awarding’ a penalty to Forest, dismissed Paul Dummett and that was it in my mind, game over. Cue a quick glance at the replay and anger had escalated to out and out aggression. Inanimate objects were struck, expletives were hurled at all and sundry following the sight of Lansbury falling to the floor before Dummett had got near him and another penalty AND red card was issued from the clueless whistler. Unbelievable.
The positives to come out of the match were evident after the hullabaloo had died down, tempers had simmered and reality had intervened in the unlikely form of the FA, who quite rightly judged that there were simply too many ricks made in one twenty minute spell of football for any of it to actually count for anything.
Now far be it from me to suggest replaying the game, as that would open a can of worms whereby most matches every week would be under scrutiny with the level of officiating in the Championship, but the appropriate retrospective action has been reached. Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett can play on, the comedian/referee has been denied a game this weekend as punishment and the cheating Lansbury has been called out by various other players and pundits alike.
Of course that didn’t help Newcastle United last Friday night, three points were lost and our lead at the top whittled down. However after the positive reaction from the FA we can look back at the week that was.
The Blackburn game was a blip, we went toe to toe with a Premier League side and didn’t lose the game, we bettered Nottingham Forest over 90 minutes (Welcome to St James Park on December 30) and despite being dealt the roughest of hands by an incompetent buffoon and a cheating toe-rag, we found out what we already knew…
We have a great goalkeeper in the making, we have a resilient side that will battle to get this club out of the division and we STILL have a manager who has the trust of the fans to do just that and in his reaction to the events on Friday night, a totally professional one as well.
This week has provided a reality check for all supporters of Newcastle United but it hasn’t derailed the charge back towards the Premier League.
If fans continue to keep their feet on the ground and keep backing the team as they are doing (and not wishing a further suspension on our own players, as someone did earlier this week) then we will get back where we want to be.
So here’s to taking the positives from the last week and going on another run starting against Birmingham on Saturday.