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Match Reports

One thing Rafa Benitez didn’t invest in last summer…

3 years ago
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On a night where Newcastle United should have all but secured promotion back to the Premier League, they were made to rue missed chances and conceded a last gasp goal with some less than desirable defending – giving a final score of Newcastle 1 Leeds 1.

Friday’s result leaves us eight points ahead of Huddersfield Town, who also have a game in hand, meaning the gap could feasibly be five points. A win in our next away game at Ipswich Town would surely take us to within three points of promotion.

With Ipswich picking up a win against Burton Albion on Friday, which secured their Championship safety for next season, maybe there is the chance that they can switch off a little on Monday. However, we cannot take anything for granted. After all, this is Newcastle United.

Before the game we were boosted by the return of Hayden, Yedlin and Colback…kind of. Most would agree now that in the centre of the park we do look stronger with Isaac Hayden next to Shelvey. Up front Rafa went with Perez and Mitrovic, which would suggest that we can probably expect Diame and Murphy to start the game at Ipswich on Monday.

The Game

Newcastle actually started off shaky, with Leeds putting us under lots of pressure in the opening 10 minutes. They nearly went 1-0 up hitting the bar very early on – as well as forcing a good save from Karl Darlow.

Newcastle did buck their ideas up rather quickly and settled into their rhythm after 15 minutes. While Newcastle were creating chances, Rob Green stood firm to deny us in a first half that we completely dominated. On the ball, going forward, Newcastle looked a much more comfortable team with Mbemba at the back. Unlike Clark and Lascelles, he has the ability, and the pace, to read the game, make attacking interceptions and carry the ball out from defence.

At full-back too, Paul Dummett is looking increasingly confident going forward. At Christmas time I don’t think many would disagree if you said he wasn’t’ good enough for Newcastle. However, he has arguably been our most consistent performer since January. On the other side, Vurnon Anita had a storming game for the first time in a long while. He showed great energy to support Ritchie further up the pitch in both halves.

It was that final ball, or attempts on goal where Newcastle seemed to struggle. We are crying out for a good number 10. I know he will probably move on to a much better team in the summer but Gylfi Sigurdsson is the type of player that this squad is crying out for behind Dwight Gayle.

I gave Perez a 3 out of 10 for his performance on Friday (see Jonathan’s match ratings HERE). Half those commenting said they 100% agreed with me, the other said it was too harsh.

It doesn’t really matter if the team played well or not, the fact remains that Ayoze Perez was rubbish on Friday night. I wish he wasn’t, but he was, and he has been playing rubbish for a while now. However, it’s not this performance that really annoy me. It is his constant complaining, whining, cheating and throwing his arms in the air that I do not like. I have no time for players who dive and cheat in Newcastle United shirts.

Mitrovic did ok! He provided a good assist for the goal and linked up play well during the game. Lets not pretend that he performed like some sort of world beater though. At the end of the day, we are desperate for goals in this league, and he has to step up at some point. It is all fine having a good performance in a one-off, but he has to replicate it, and he has to score goals.

Finally, the deadlock in the second half was broken as Mitrovic nodded a header across the box for Lascelles to header home. It was definitely over the line, although it was close and the officials did well to get it spot on. We have had some pretty terrible officials at Newcastle this season, even before the Burton Albion fiasco. However, I thought the man in the middle was absolutely brilliant on Friday and should be credited for it.

The Leeds equaliser came about simply through bad defending and individual errors. Firstly, Diame got caught in the middle of nowhere, which allowed Roofe space to deliver the cross. Second, Lascelles was caught in no-man’s land as Chris Wood nipped in to score the goal.

Lascelles has had his critics as of late and it is completely fair at the moment. I am still not convinced that he is the right leader for Newcastle. In the last minute of the game he should be the one taking control. He should have been taking responsibility and getting a hold of the league’s top goal scorer until that final whistle blew.

If there is one thing Rafa didn’t invest in last summer, it was that there still isn’t enough leaders in that dressing room.

Rafa

I am increasingly coming to the opinion that Rafa is getting the absolute maximum out of a not so good group of players. The fact that most fans are in agreement that most of this squad isn’t good enough for the Premier League is testament to the job that Benitez has done this season.

He certainly won’t be panicking but there is no doubt that he will be relaying the message to the players that they have to do better.

Going into the last few games, I have no doubt that Rafa’s calmness, decision-making and experience will be key.

The Fans

The Leeds fans came in their droves and made a good noise in the stadium… although not as good as they like to tell everyone they are!

Still, either way, the atmosphere is always a lot better when the away end is sold out! I would rather have 3,000 Leeds fans here every week than one or two thousand from so-called lesser sides.

One of the better atmospheres of the season that’s for sure! Given the fact this is a big game, the closest we come to a derby, Easter weekend, under the lights on a night time, it was always going to be a good one!

Again, the Gallowgate corner were in good voice. Although, one thing that needs to be said is that we let ourselves down singing classless and needless Jimmy Saville songs. I would rather sit in silence that partake in those sorts of songs. Something that will hopefully be cut out sooner rather than later.

Finally, while there were a few groans at the end of the game, it is equally important that the team was applauded off for a very good performance in which they all gave 100%. After all, that is all we can ask for.

Last bit…

There is one thing that Huddersfield have that Newcastle don’t have right now and that is momentum. Lets not get too ahead of ourselves, if we fail to beat Ipswich on Monday and Huddersfield win away to Derby then they are in with a great chance of catching us. Monday has the potential to be one extreme or the other.

Newcastle have struggled at home this season under the ‘pressure’ of 52,000 fans. It is now time for these players to really step up to the pressure and get the job done.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Leeds 1

Goals:

Newcastle: Lascelles 67

Leeds: Wood 90+5

Possession was Leeds 44% Newcastle 56%

Total shots were  Leeds 4 Newcastle 22

Shots on target were Leeds 2 Newcastle 4

Corners were  Leeds 0 Newcastle 19

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Ritchie (Yedlin 84), Shelvey, Hayden (Colback 79), Gouffran, Perez (Diame 90), Mitrovic

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Hanley, Murphy, Atsu

Crowd: 52,301 (Leeds 3,200)

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

(The instant fan/writer reaction from Friday night’s match HERE)

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

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