125 years, wow. That’s a long time for an institution to be around to be fair, and there was a bit of pomp around in celebration. Probably just the right amount, as 125 years is a bit of a funny number, not one to be sniffed at by any means, but not really a proper anniversary either.
Whatever, today was United’s birthday and they chose to celebrate it by looking promising, letting themselves down, initiating a false dawn and ultimately disappointing. If that’s not a brutal synopsis for the previous century and a quarter I don’t know what is.
It all started well of course. The increasingly bright looking Murphy made an incisive run at the Leicester defence before playing in Gayle, who sped to the byline and cut the ball across for an easy finish for Joselu. Couldn’t fault his cool despatch but to be honest he promptly went back to being anonymous for the rest of the match.
He wasn’t the only one in black and white to drop a gear to be fair, as Leicester proceeded to completely own the rest of the first half. Long periods of patient possession brought constant pressure and on the rare occasions United did break, the visitors inevitably launched a terrifying counter attack. Moments after the Joselu goal Gayle had found space to fire narrowly wide, but from there it was a bit déjà vu, as the early goal served only to rile the opponent as it had at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
For all their recent title winning credentials though, home to Leicester should be a different proposition. However, the gulf in class was dishearteningly apparent and personified by Riyad Mahrez, who was given time and space to smash in Leicester’s equaliser.
There followed a series of dangerous attacks where Vardy, Simpson and Albrighton were all denied by last ditch defending. At the other end Newcastle finally ventured into the final third as Murphy pounced on a defensive mistake to force Schmeichel into a full length diving save.
When United managed to get through the minute of first half injury time without conceding you did wonder if we may get a let-off. This was sharp scuppered as the constantly threatening Demari Gray took all of 15 minutes to hammer the visitors ahead via a massive deflection off Lejeune. Stupid football spoiling my Saturday on the drink again.
I think everyone was resigned to defeat but NUFC still had that 125-year vintage of false hope to offer. Merino headed the ball into the path of Gayle, and he just lashed it in with the predatory instinct we got so used to last season. Today proved that Dwight is perfectly capable (when injury free!) of cutting it in the Premier League. A goal, an assist and a near miss, is not a bad return for a striker and one might expect to be picking up a win bonus after all that.
Gayle was by far our best player, but with Ritchie misfiring horribly, Shelvey confined to the bench and a complete lack of capable strike partners, there’s a danger he’ll look like another Championship player who can’t cut it in the top flight, which is desperately unfair. Here’s hoping something happens that gets the problems up front addressed pronto.
It was problems at the other end that undid us though. The average of three shipped per game in Lascelles’ absence was kept up, as abject, riotous panic set in during a Leicester counter attack. Vardy crossed through the hysterical chaos to present Okazaki with a tap-in. Perez had to dive in to have any chance of a heroic save, but he could only beat his man to diverting the ball into the net.
At this point I could waste a paragraph on how takeover or spending is a must, as we have taken one point from a possible 21, horrible relegation form that puts us two points and two places above that very zone.
Having lied about never coming back to management, Sam Allardyce will be licking his considerable chops at the thought of bringing his Everton side to heap further misery on Rafa and his former club. With Arsenal and Man City waiting afterwards, the Toffees visit is already a must win as we look to arrest a hideous, horrible slide.
Many have pointed to Rafa’s less than inspiring tactical stoicism as a factor in this recent depression, going as far as to question the manager’s standing.
All I’ll say is, if you think there’s any lingering hope of things improving should Rafa Benitez go, you’ve had a lot more to drink than me, and trust me I’ve had plenty lately.
Happy bloody birthday everyone.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Leicester 3
Newcastle: Joselu 4, Gayle 73
Leicester: Mahrez 20, Gray 60, Perez OG 86
Possession was Leicester 62% Newcastle 38%
Total shots were Leicester 13 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Leicester 5 Newcastle 4
Corners were Leicester 5 Newcastle 6
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lejeune, Manquillo, Ritchie (Atsu 64), Hayden, Merino, Murphy (Perez 71), Joselu (Mitrovic 88) Gayle
Elliot, Lascelles, Shelvey, Diame
Crowd: 52,117 (Leicester 3,000)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction after the defeat HERE)
(Phil Neville gives brutal overview of Newcastle team, read HERE)
(Alan Shearer explains to outsiders how Mike Ashley has respect for no one – read HERE)
(Very interesting comments from Leicester fans about Newcastle United, read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf