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Opinion

Were Newcastle United really that bad…Shocking result not shocking performance?

2 weeks ago
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I have been interested to see the reaction to Newcastle 0 Cambridge 1.

Newcastle United fans, pundits, journalists, those who love it when stuff goes wrong with NUFC, whoever.

Nobody, well no one who is rational, would say this was a great performance by Newcastle on Saturday.

However, some of the reactions /comments have been, dare I say it, a ‘little’ over the top.

In my time watching Newcastle United as a regular match-goer since the late seventies, I think I have a pretty good handle on what constitutes an absolute shocking performance and personally, I don’t think the team display falls into that category. It honestly wouldn’t make the top 20 or maybe even top 50 of some of the rubbish I have watched over 45 years or so.

Yes, losing at home to a team two divisions below you is a shocking result BUT performances aren’t always the same thing as results.

Alan Shearer called the performance ‘pathetic’, whilst one NUFC journalist described Saturday as ‘one of the most embarrassing’ days in Newcastle United history.

The Newcastle United legend (Shearer, not a certain NUFC journalist…) also said that Cambridge absolutely deserved to win.

That depends on how you define deserving to win.

Cambridge defended in numbers, gave it everything, took their one real chance when it came along with the help of some woeful defending / goalkeeping, Dubravka didn’t have to make a serious save, visiting keeper Mitov was man of the match with a lot of saves and two or three of them exceptional, whilst Newcastle’s players wasted a host of chances – especially in the first half.

Good luck to Cambridge because they got their reward for commitment and determination but by any serious thing that can be measured, it was Newcastle who ‘deserved’ to win.

These things happen in football and it is why we love and hate it so much, unlike pretty much every other team sport, in football there is no guarantee the best team wins.

I was at Anfield in 1988 when Dave Beasant had not just his one good game for Newcastle United, he had a once in a lifetime performance. Liverpool were a class act back then and Newcastle were woeful, yet Beasant made countless incredible saves and NUFC scored with two breaks to somehow win 2-1. Nobody who was there will forget it. Were the red scousers pathetic on the day? Only in their finishing and two lapses in defence in the entire 90 minutes.

Moving forward to more recent times, I have to say that even in the past two and a half years I have seen far worse cup displays by Newcastle United than I saw on Saturday.

At League Two Newport last season, Newcastle were absolutely woeful in the League Cup, going behind on five minutes and creating so few decent chances, then out of nowhere Shelvey scores with three minutes to go and NUFC end up sneaking through undeservedly on penalties.

Home to League One Oxford in January 2020, Newcastle absolutely terrible, only four efforts on target and fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw. In that FA Cup replay, after being gifted an early 2-0 lead, Newcastle were dominated in the second half and in extra time, ASM saving them with a wonder goal out of the blue with four minutes of added time left.

Also in January 2020, the 1-1 at League One Rochdale was also another tale of an early lead for Newcastle but then second half seeing the team two divisions lower dominate and unlucky not to win. Home to Championship Blackburn was woeful last season in the League Cup, Ryan Fraser scoring with Newcastle’s only chance (stats show two on target) but otherwise the visitors absolutely deserved to win, Blackburn with 65% possession, 16 shots to 5, 10 corners to Newcastle’s 3.

I don’t care to list all of the other countless other miserable performances I have seen that were far worse than this latest rubbish against Cambridge…but they very much exist.

Newcastle did alright in the first half on Saturday and overall poor finishing and an inspired goalkeeping, prevented the game being won by half-time. After the break it was a shocker because Newcastle ran out of ideas and presented so little goal threat, though not exactly a surprise when you have a team / squad with so little creativity and especially goalscorers.

That is the clear fault of Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce.

The only thing Bruce ever had going in his favour was some outrageous luck on so many occasions, not least in those cup matches listed above against lower league opposition. In terms of performance, Newcastle these past two seasons should have lost to Rochdale, Oxford (twice), Blackburn and Newport but fluked them.

Eddie Howe had absolutely no luck on Saturday AND was let down by the lack of creativity and goals he inherited, as well as by questionable attitude of some of those on the pitch, certainly as we moved into the second half.

This is a team / squad with so few leaders, so few players willing to step up and take responsibility, especially when it comes to the hardest thing of all – creating chances and the determination to get into the box and score at all costs. I shake my head when I see some fans picking out ASM for blame, as always, he was pretty much the only NUFC player trying to make stuff happen, other players simply giving him the ball and hoping he will do something.

I have thought this for a while and having mentioned Alan Shearer above, the NUFC legend said he was prepared to help in any way after the new owners took control…well I can think of far worse ideas than the former number nine going into training and specifically working on the team’s shooting.

As at the moment, so many of them are so poor with their shooting, indeed a fair few of them don’t even look as though they know how to strike the ball properly, not with any conviction anyway. So bad that you would think it was Shola Ameobi who had been secretly working with the NUFC strikers and midfielders on shooting practice, rather than former Newcastle and England captain.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 0 Cambridge 1 – Saturday 8 January 3pm

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Goals:

Cambridge:

Newcastle:

Possession was Cambridge 42% (40%) Newcastle 58% (60%)

Total shots were Cambridge 7 (4) Newcastle 23 (10)

Shots on target were Cambridge 4 (2) Newcastle 9 (6)

Corners were Cambridge 1 (1) Newcastle 12 (5)

Referee: Tony Harrington

Crowd: 51,395 (4,830 Cambridge)

Newcastle United:

Dubravka, Trippier, Krafth, Schar, Ritchie (Manquillo 78), Shelvey, Sean Longstaff (Almiron 60), Murphy (Willock 60), Fraser, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin

Unused Subs:

Gillespie, Dummett, Hendrick, Anderson, White

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