3 possible outcomes from this week’s drama at Newcastle United
Not, you understand “oh sh*t” exclusively in the context of this QPR result which although disappointing, is not the end of the world after Brighton’s subsequent defeat at Huddersfield. No, this is a bigger, more resonating “oh sh*t” that is potentially far bigger than any one match.
With QPR rolling into town the day after January’s transfer window had closed with no incomings, a good result against a side we smashed six past on their own ground could have went some way to lightening the mood. It looked very promising as well when we went ahead in the first minute as Hayden’s dangerous ball across the face of goal was headed half-clear by a defender, only to land neatly into the path of Shelvey, who smashed in one of those sweet volleys that it’s impossible not to love. Tone set after 38 seconds then, this should be a doddle.
The entire rest of the first half was utterly crap. Hayden and Ritchie were largely anonymous and far below their best, Yedlin got caught in possession far too often and in too many dangerous positions and Lascelles ‘calm collected’ approach was more of a pedestrian liability that invited unnecessary pressure. Matters weren’t helped by Ciaran Clark bleeding all ower the shop after a worrying looking clash of heads and having a spell off the pitch for stitches.
As the half progressed, QPR got wise to how flat United were and started to chance their luck a bit. Luongo went close when given time to pick his shot and warmed Darlow’s hands with a header, but United didn’t get the hint and by half time Rangers were level. A corner was headed away but when Bidwell drove it back into the box all marking had gone to hell and Washington found himself free to knock home a tap in. Bit shambolic like.
Second half was better, no taking that away, but not by enough. A coherent passage of play saw a bit of momentum build up, ultimately ending in Hayden’s back post cross being headed in by Ritchie, who outjumped someone who I’m willing to bet got in bother for being outjumped by Matt Ritchie. Phew, settler.
The moments that followed proved to be crucial in the match and in some ways may even cost us in terms of the season. Twice in quick succession Ayoze Perez led a breakaway attack down the right hand side. The first time he chose to shoot at Smithies when a simple ball to Ritchie would have brought a certain goal and the second time he reversed the process, sending a speculative cross over Ritchie’s head when the shot was very much on. There was a sense that this might cost us…..
When Perez was withdrawn (too late) for Diame I was pleased that he wasn’t booed off too vehemently, both because I’m not keen on that sort of thing and, abysmal though he was, he will undoubtedly have some part to play in the remainder of the season. Shattered confidence he needs not.
It may have been different had Perez went off two minutes later, after the sucker punch of the evening. With seconds of normal time left, Lua Lua floated a hopeful cross in that was going nowhere. A complete breakdown of communication between Darlow, in no-mans land off his line, and Clark saw the latter flip a needless header back over the goalie to give the visitors a point. There was near silence in the ground as the horrible contemplation of what had just occurred sunk in.
With the play-off pack all winning and an ominous set of fixtures coming up, this was two points dropped in a game we had to make count. The fact that a rick from one of our star performers of the season had cost us made it no easier to take, though Clark is far easier to forgive than some of the usual suspects.
The real damage of this week was yet to fully set in, as Rafa’s post-match comments portrayed a very frustrated Spaniard indeed.
Basically, having avoided a mass implosion of the club by handing Rafa the initiative it seems our liability of an owner has reverted to type and decided to launch another money-saving initiative like the ones that have twice cost him £100 million in Premier League prize money.
Rafa, clearly furious at the lack of Townsend (though Palace were clearly taking the pi** a bit with the price) or reinforcements of the kind brought in by all other promotion contenders, let his feelings be widely known in front of the TV cameras.
This miserable business has brought a plethora of news articles, the general gist of which is Rafa having a Keegan-esque epiphany that this isn’t what it said in the brochure. The consensus is that the manager will not walk away from the promotion fight, but is likely to reconsider his position if forced to accept the failed old strategy of buy young, sell on, leave Graeme in charge of the transfers.
This potentially has a number of outcomes.
The best, and only positive one, is that Ashley has exercised some frugality in the January window to avoid losing a cash cushion in the event of a failed promotion attempt. With promotion secured this will be relaxed in the more viable summer window and Rafa will be allowed to mastermind the extensive rebuilding needed for the Prem.
Option two sees promotion gained and Ashley standing by his ridiculous strategy, at which point Rafa will walk away and we will revert to being a stepping stone coached by yet another puppet happy to accept someone else’s signings in order to cling on to Premier League employment.
The third scenario would involve the unrest this has created destroying the morale and distracting the players, resulting in a fall to the play-off places followed by an inglorious end of season failure (probably at Wembley) that is gleefully celebrated by our army of haters. Rafa understandably walks and we can’t even use desperation for Premier League employment as a bargaining chip for the next yes man.
I really don’t believe the club as we know it will survive this latest round of Ashleycide if either of the latter scenarios play out. Most of the disenfranchised among our support will have expected this on some level, and some will already have abandoned any hope of this turning out alright.
All we can hope in the short term is that we can secure the return to the top flight and either Rafa re-establishes control or the club again becomes a saleable asset that can once and for all escape this miserable existence.
Hopefully, this is an over-reported speed bump, and we won’t be looking back at the night Ciaran Clark inadvertently cost us 2 points against QPR as symbolic of the point the club finally went down in flames.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 QPR 2
Newcastle: Shelvey 1, Ritchie 54
QPR: Washington 44, OG Clark 90
Possession was QPR 50% Newcastle 50%
Total shots were QPR 9 Newcastle 16
Shots on target were QPR 4 Newcastle 8
Corners were QPR 4 Newcastle 4
Referee: Tim Robinson
Crowd: 47,907 (610 QPR)
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran, Perez (Diame 86), Murphy (Ameobi 66)
Sels, Hanley, Lazaar, Gamez, Mitrovic
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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