Over the top reaction takes gloss off Leicester 0 Newcastle 1
I always think it is important to take a few days when writing a match report on Newcastle United. The reason why has been perfectly illustrated this weekend with the ridiculous OTT reaction to what was a great win away to Leicester City on Friday night.
United all but assured their place in the Premier League next season to the joy of the 3,300 away fans who created one of the best away end atmospheres that I heard in a long time. Throw that in with a match winner that was one of the best headers I have seen in a long time too, it all makes for positive reading!
However, that reaction over the weekend, in particular from the local press – who seem insistent on whipping up some sort of strange breed of over the top and misleadingly overly positive feeling amongst the fanbase (for whose benefit I assume only their own), has led what should have been a good display into what I can only describe as a bit of farce.
From the complete overreaction to Ayoze Perez’s seventh pL goal of the season, to peddling rumours that he is now on the wish list of major Spanish clubs, to telling us all that he can play for Manchester City. Then there is bizarre Q & A’s on social media in which journalists aim to tell eager fans what is going on at the club by asking the same old questions that they know they do not know the answer to.
Finally, we were provided with some sort of weird exclusive that a takeover is now on the horizon again as ‘Mike Ashley is open to end of season sale of NUFC’. I suppose all news outlets have to get their clicks from somewhere in this day and age, and maybe I am a misery guts, but the OTT reaction this weekend has left a sour taste in my mouth after what was a great result.
Before I talk about the game, let us not forget where we stand at Newcastle United.
This is a team who have been fighting relegation zone for most of the season, our manager’s contract is almost up, players contracts are running down, loan signings do not look like they are going to be signed, Mike Ashley is still here and he does not look like making a dramatic u-turn from the Mike Ashley we have seen over the past 10 or more years.
The club remains, at least by Premier League standards, an absolute basket case. No ambition, no investment and an ever crumbling infrastructure.
The OTT reaction has really taken the gloss of what was a good win, and I just wish some of us could take our heads out of the sand, step back, and gain just a tiny bit of perspective.
Now if you were to read the possession stats from the game it would tell you a very different story from the one that unfolded in reality. In a game that Leicester dominated possession-wise, Newcastle always looked the far more threatening team. Aside from one golden chance for Jamie Vardy, Martin Dubravka’s goal was rarely threatened.
Salomon Rondon nearly had Newcastle 1-0 up with a ridiculous attempt from a free-kick which hit the bar. It was an incredible effort and one of those strikes that looked destined for the top corner until the very last moment. Although Leicester had dominated possession, I do not think anyone could say that it came as a surprise when we went 1-0 up.
I’ll keep saying this but as far as headed goals go, you will be hard pressed to find me a better one. This wasn’t the first brilliant headed goal Perez has scored for Newcastle with my memory taking me back to White Hart Lane quite a few years ago (I think his first season) when he scored a peach of a header to win the game on that day. This one though was spectacular, and in my memory, I can only think of a Cristiano Ronaldo header away to Roma for Man U that goes down as a better headed goal.
Newcastle hung on for the rest of the game, although Leicester’s only major chance came through Jamie Vardy who skied one over the bar. It was another night in which every player chipped in.
However, I really fear that as Newcastle fans, on the whole, our standards of what is ‘good enough’ have decreased dramatically to a point where we accept pretty much anything positive as being good enough. Sorry to say it, but the only person that wins from fans adopting what I would call a ‘gullible mentality’, is Mike Ashley.
This was what you could call a quintessential Rafa Benitez performance. A Newcastle team that gave up possession but were dogged and determined throughout. They defended resolutely and took their chance when it came along. In this case it was only a half-chance from Perez, but it was all we needed on the night when it turned out to be quite comfortable in the end.
With safety pretty much assured now, will Rafa mix it up in the last few games?
I would hope so but I don’t see it happening. He will want to get the most out of the last few remaining fixtures… wouldn’t it be great if we had a big say in the title race too.
As mentioned, one of the best away ends in a long time. Even from the first whistle, this wasn’t a case of the players getting the fans going. For whatever reason, and it hasn’t always been the case this season, everyone in the away end seemed up for it as 3,300 Geordies sang their hearts out for 90 minutes.
Even at the end of the game, once the players had gone, the home fans had gone and stadium was otherwise empty, the travelling Toon Army continued to make a great noise long into the night. It was one of those nights where you woke up the following morning muttering “whose that team we call United…” as you stood in the shower.
This game had an added importance for me as it was my last game watching Newcastle live before I fly out for a new job in Singapore that will keep me away from following the Toon for goodness knows how long. Walking into the away end on Friday night just as the teams were coming out, genuinely brought a tear to my eye as 3,000 Geordies belted out ‘who’s that team we call United’.
I am looking forward to finding out about all of the experiences of the Singapore Toon Army who are based in the The Penny Black Pub.
The Leicester game was my 518th Newcastle game, which isn’t bad for a 23 year old!
Of course I will miss the passion of the away end but I tell you what, as long as Mike Ashley is still the owner of this magnificent football club, then there is a small part of me that knows I really won’t be missing anything at all.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Leicester 0 Newcastle 1
Possession was Leicester 72% Newcastle 28%
Total shots were Leicester 12 Newcastle 11
Shots on target were Leicester 5 Newcastle 5
Corners were Leicester 2 Newcastle 3
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Ki (Diame 82), Almiron (Atsu 78), Perez, Rondon
Darlow, Shelvey, Fernandez, Muto, Yedlin
Crowd: 32,108 (3,000 Newcastle)
(Reaction from Newcastle fans/writers to the 1-0 win at Leicester HERE)
(Great response from Alan Shearer to NUFC victory at Leicester HERE)
(Excellent footage of Newcastle fans singing/celebrating at full-time HERE)
(Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher discuss the state of Newcastle United HERE)
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