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Match Reports

Newcastle 1 Leicester 2 Match Report – ‘Not as bad as expected’

4 months ago
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Now, the 18th October 2014 was quite a day.

The unveiling of the new scoreboard at the Leazes end created an extra hour’s drinking time as the thing started falling apart on it’s debut, I won £100 on a smart bet and Gabriel Obertan’s goal gave United a long overdue first win of the season against the bottom side.

It was also the last home win we had against Leicester City, as it preceded an alarming divergence in fortunes between the clubs.

By the time we met for the return at the King Power that season, Leicester were mounting an incredible resurgence from near certain relegation to survival under Nigel Pearson. They won 3-0 that day, survived, brought in Claudio Ranieri and the rest is history.

Leicester showed ambition and invested wisely, we did our usual stagnating act. They won the league the next year and we went down. They have continued to revitalise and reinvest and we have lurched from crisis to turmoil to Bruceball.

In the meantime, Leicester had won four straight league games at St James (and knocked us out of the league cup) and were now clearly established as a more frightening opponent. You could just sense 25% possession and the usual meek surrender coming here. The 5-3-1-1 formation pretty much confirmed this, and I would question what motivated anyone who didn’t have a commitment to write a match report to watch this game.

There were a couple of early let offs as Vardy twice darted in behind the defence, only for the offside flag to save us. The first time he squared it to Tielemans, who slipped onto his backside with the goal gaping, but the smart finish Vardy produced the second time was a reminder of just how quickly we could be undone by this rearguard action.

Matty Longstaff continued to add an improvement to the midfield, with (shock) attempts to play the ball forward, with his nicely floated ball in, headed firmly but directly at Schmeichel by Joelinton.

The end to the first half gave an indication this may be a lucky Bruce day as Leicester seemed unable to get through the United backline, despite constant invitations to do so. The hailstones that bounced off my window at half time suggested that the second half would not be an affair for soft lads.

Within a couple of minutes of the restart Vardy had once again been left to float in behind, only to volley wildly off target. At the other end, Yedlin’s terrific inviting cross was allowed to bounce annoyingly safely through the danger area. A bit of a period of pressure followed as Almiron belted over the bar from a corner and Evans just managed to keep Wilson from connecting at the near post, then the inevitable reaction occurred.

United were caught backtracking from Vardy’s run and flocked to block him out, leaving James Maddison relatively unmarked to belt in for what feels like about the twelfth time in recent fixtures between the teams. The defending could have been a bit sturdier but in fairness we were actually having a bit of a go and got hit on the counter by a team who do that well. This I can actually accept.

Another accusation I had lined up would have been Bruce waiting too long to make a sub, as Leicester enjoyed a bit of pressure after their goal. I’m not sure the introduction of Murphy and Shelvey for Joelinton and Almiron was entirely positive, but Murphy hit the ground running, having a shot deflected over and another effort float just past the upright, before starting a lovely move, but failing to get to the back post for Matty Longstaff’s dangerous centre.

Moments later it was game over as the Foxes again caught the back-pedalling United cold. Maddison sent Albrighton away down the right and it was Tielemans who had plenty of time to blast in a wicked shot from his ball in.

Bruce had a last desperate throw of the dice as Carroll came on for Yedlin. Almost immediately, egg was applied to the face of anyone doubting the effectiveness of this, as Ritchie’s free kick from out wide was viciously thumped home for Carroll’s first Newcastle goal in over a decade.

There were a couple of moments of late drama. Wilson got in behind the defence but was denied by Schmeichel. Barnes did likewise at the other end, but was denied by Darlow. Leicester managed the game out despite a bit of spirit being shown by United and made it six wins in a row at SJP.

To be honest, I don’t feel anything particularly about this expected defeat.

Leicester’s goals were both very good and came as a result of us playing with a bit more intent than recent times. It’s the rubbish performances that preceded it and will no doubt resurface at Sheffield United, or something that deflate the spirit, with games like this and Liverpool being thrown back at you by media commentators as evidence that Newcastle actually aren’t that bad and we shouldn’t be complaining, whereas in fact the complaints are that we seem constantly set up to play worse than we obviously are capable of.

The niggly things are irritating me now. The sense of foreboding we get before most games regardless of the stature of the opponents is soul destroying at a miserable and uninspiring time in everyone’s lives. The fact the team doesn’t ever know what to do with a throw in, always seeming to look to throw it forward while happily passing backwards from decent attacking positions. The often ‘too little too late’ nature of the substitutions.

I would defy anyone to say the performances here and against Liverpool haven’t been considerable improvements, but with the relegation zone creeping up behind us, I have little confidence in the coaching team’s ability to harness this potential and turn it into positive performances in games we should be winning.

Seasons don’t fall apart by losing narrowly to Leicester or being held by the champions, its abject failures to perform against the likes of Fulham and Brentford that create the angst and frustration that is leading to misery or, even worse, apathy among supporters.

Let’s see if the games ahead give us something to be a bit more cheerful about during the most depressing month of the year and another pending lockdown. Happy New Year.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Leicester 2 – Sunday 3 January 2.15pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Carroll 82

Leicester:

Maddison 55, Tielemans 72

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Leicester 57% (60%)  Newcastle 43% (40%)

Total shots were Leicester 9 (3) Newcastle 7 (3)

Shots on target Leicester 3 (0) Newcastle 2 (1)

Corners were Leicester 6 (3) Newcastle 3 (0)

Referee: Robert Jones

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Yedlin (Carroll 79), Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Matty Longstaff, Sean Longstaff, Ritchie, Almiron (Murphy 64), Joelinton (Shelvey 65), Wilson

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, Krafth, Gayle, Hendrick, Dummett, Manquillo

(Newcastle 1 Leicester 2 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Sunday’s defeat  – Read HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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