For those who think Rafa Benitez can’t be criticised, Ipswich was wake-up call
The tone of this Ipswich 3 Newcastle 1 match report has changed significantly after Derby’s late equaliser against Huddersfield.
We now only need one more win, as long as Huddersfield slip up once more. While this now seems like an absolute no brainer, we cannot take anything for granted. Anything can happen in football.
Although it is true that NUFC have reached the 85 point mark completely on merit, it is embarrassing the way we have limped towards the line since January. If we do go up, we will have succeeded in Rafa’s “mini league” not because we were good, but because the likes of Huddersfield and Reading were just the little bit worse than we were.
On the day, Newcastle United were terrible. I said to a friend at half time that the first half was probably the worst first half of football I have seen from a Newcastle team in a long time.
I don’t know about others reading this, but it always seems to me that the further you travel, the harder the journey, and the more expensive the ticket (£37.50 in my case)… the worse we tend to perform.
Before the game, Rafa reverted to his usual policy of tinkering with the side. Some changes were expected, such as Diame and Murphy replacing Perez and Mitrovic. However, others were rather inexplicable to the average fan. Yedlin came in for Anita after his best game of the season against Leeds, and Hanley came in for Mbemba, who has looked accomplished since coming back into the team.
As with most Newcastle away games this season, the first half was exceptionally boring. Ipswich could have had an early lead but a foul was given on Jamaal Lascelles. I received two texts from people watching the beamback at SJP, who said that it wasn’t a foul and the goal should have stood. So Newcastle got lucky early on.
Newcastle were shambolic in the first half, they did not look anything like a side who were chasing promotion and needed to win. Instead they were being out-fought and out-ran by an Ipswich team that needed a win just to make mathematically certain that they won’t be relegated.
The only chance Newcastle did have in the first half was a big one, and Matt Ritchie missed it. Paul Dummett briefly turned into Roberto Carlos to take on his man and deliver a wonderful cross into Ritchie who missed wildly from 12 yards.
That miss was further compounded when only a few minutes later Ritchie gave the ball away inside his own half and Ipswich bared down on the Newcastle defence. While Ritchie was mostly to blame for the goal, the defending from the two centre halves was laughable. Both of them backed off and backed off and backed off and backed off and backed off… until both Ipswich strikers found themselves in the Newcastle box. The inevitable happened and Ipswich were 1-0 up, deservedly.
Sears and McGoldrick ran Newcastle ragged in the first half, perhaps if they had a little more quality then Ipswich could have scored a few more goals. I am not quite sure why Rafa went with Hanley over Mbemba. If Ipswich had a big man up front, who posed a threat in the air, then I could understand Hanley being brought in to counter that. However, given the fact that Mbemba is a far better defender than Hanley, and has performed well since he came back into the side, the decision seemed illogical.
Rafa made no changes at half-time. This is no surprise, as he never does, but there have been so many games this season where it is so obviously not working – so why does he stick with it? I have no clue.
Newcastle started no better in the second half and were very poor going forward with Diame and Ritchie offering very little. Atsu did create a few chances on the left hand side but as per usual his final ball was lacking.
The equaliser came out of nowhere to be honest as we did not look like we were threatening to score. Paul Dummett provided a suberb ball to Atsu down the left hand side whose cross into the box found Daryl Murphy in the right place at the right time.
Murphy may not put himself about as much as Mitrovic, or get the fans going etc. but he is a centre forward whose job is to score goals. If Mitrovic did less playing to the crowd, and more ‘being in the right place at the right time’, he might have a future at Newcastle.
Almost immediately though, Ipswich were back in front thanks to some terrible defending on the right side of pitch. The defence is something that needs addressed in the summer (in fact the whole team does really). I hope that Rafa starts next season with a solid centre half partnership that he knows he can trust.
Ipswich scored a third goal late on… and they could have had a fourth when Lascelles inexplicably couldn’t pass a ball 10 yards to a black and white shirt.
Jamaal Lascelles also walked straight off the pitch at the end of the game, ignoring the Newcastle fans who travelled all those miles and paid all that money to watch the team. This for me is almost unforgivable, especially from the captain.
Emotions are obviously high but the very least I ask for at the end of the game is for players to come over and just say thanks. Really really poor from the captain, whose place in the side should be questioned once Clark comes back.
Lee Ryder wrote in his match report that “Ipswich couldn’t believe their luck” – what luck? They were the better team for most of the game, and well Newcastle have played like that for 4 months now. If anything Newcastle were lucky to only come away with a 3-1 defeat yesterday.
One thing Rafa will learn soon enough is that Newcastle fans are lots of thing. We are fickle, we are short-tempered, sometimes unrealistic, hugely passionate, but we are not stupid. We know our football.
We can see when something isn’t working, we can tell a good player from a bad player, a good pass from a bad pass. We know our football – so while Rafa is without doubt the best thing that has happened to Newcastle since Bobby Robson. He should not expect an easy ride and should be questioned when he gets it wrong.
Something that the local journalists in the North East are too scared to do…
You can’t fault the fans who sold out the away end yesterday. They made a noise and tried to roar the team on but sometimes its hard when you are watching such rubbish.
I admire those fans that sing for 90 minutes no matter what, no matter how boring or how bad they are. I can’t do that though.
Cries of ‘embarrassing’ and ‘gutless’ were rife in the away end. You can’t really argue with that.
The Derby goal has changed everything lets be honest. We should be okay, because we should win one more game and Huddersfield should slip up at least once more. That’s the law of averages.
However, this team has not coped with pressure this season, so why should we expect them to now?
For those fans that still think Rafa can’t be criticised… yesterday should be a wake up call.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Ipswich 3 Newcastle 1
Newcastle: Murphy 62
Ipswich: Sears 42, McGoldrick 69, Huws 90+3
Possession was Ipswich 45% Newcastle 55%
Total shots were Ipswich 9 Newcastle 12
Shots on target were Ipswich 3 Newcastle 4
Corners were Ipswich 2 Newcastle 7
Referee: Tim Robinson
Darlow, Yedlin (Gamez 78), Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett, Ritchie (Mitrovic 82), Hayden (Gouffran 61), Shelvey, Atsu, Diame, Murphy
Elliot, Perez, Mbemba, Colback
Crowd: 25,684 (Newcastle 2,000)
To view Jonathan’s match ratings for the NUFC players go HERE)
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