From his snowy encampment in Shildon, Pete Sixsmith assesses the great letdown that was the second half at St James’ Park. He clears everyone – especially Chopra and Howard Webb – of conspiracy, and admits that we didn’t in the end deserve the three points that were so comfortably in our grasp at half time. Forget Joe Kinnear’s idiotic bombast, forgive Webb for a decision even he must now see as lamentable and back the Lads to go on and reach round five and thrash Stoke City….
Right, let’s get an assessment of the game out of the way first before I start on Howard Webb and the Premier League refereeing fraternity.
It was an exciting game with lots of committment, heavy tackles, near misses and fascinating sub plots. It was the kind of game that typifies English football at its most raw and it was perfect local derby fare, – with a fair result at the end.
We dominated the first half but once again failed to press home our clear advantage. The defence looked sound in the first 45, our midfield was the epitome of composure compared with theirs, while the two forwards looked to have the life of their back four.
Cisse took his goal well as Coloccini stood and waved him through like the traffic policeman who used to stand on a rostrum in Durham Market Place and if Richardson’s free kick had been six inches to the right, we would have gone in two up and Ashley would have needed the battalion of soldiers from Iraq sat near him to protect him from a baying mob.
But the doubts were there at half time. “It’s for us to lose it,” was the text that went out and I would imagine that most Red and Whites sat in the upper regions of SJP felt the same. They couldn’t be as bad second half, could they?
They weren’t. Whatever the appalling Kinnear said to them, it worked. Losing Cisse was a blow as they could relax at the back and we lost our outlet. Butt and Nolan got hold of the game and we sat far too deep.
Richardson had had a superb first half, but he ran out of steam, Edwards was generally lacking and it was left to the admirable Dean Whitehead to try and steady things in the midfield,
At the back, Ferdinad and Collins were well in control, but Guiterrez was a danger and he attacked Bardsley consistently. He had to be careful after a early and avoidable booking meant that one slip and he would be off. McCartney looked fine. But there was still that nagging doubt.
When the equaliser came, there was a flurry of text messages indicating that it was not a penalty: “Wot a joke” anf “Wait till you see this tonight” being the repeatable ones. They had a spell after that but we came back strongly at the end and should have nicked it.
Conspiracy theorists will have a field day over Chopra’s indecision. “Never scored at SJP”, “Once a Mag, always a Mag”, “Mrs Chopra’s got to him” etc. etc. Quite simply, he bottled it and was caught in two minds. He made a shocking decision to square the ball to Kenwyne and the chance was lost. That’s it.
Speaking of shocking decisions………. I was really pleased when I heard that Howard Webb was refereeing. I think he is a really good ref who has a feel for the game and the right kind of ego to be a success in a difficult job. He carries himself well, has a rapport with players and takes no nonsense from them. He’s probably in the top five referees in the world.
He did well in the first half, realising that it was a fierce local derby, booking when he needed to and allowing the game to flow. He got the Duff decision right as well, even down to the yellow card. But how on earth he saw that as a penalty I will never know.
It was as poor a decision I have seen and is just typical of the way things go for us. Three awful decisions in the last three league games (Halsey gave United a penalty on Saturday that was exactly the same as the one he turned down on Tuesday) makes you want to shake your head and give up. Disappointing Howard – you owe us one for that.
At 1.30 I would have settled for a draw. To come away disappointed from the home of the Great Satan after outplaying them for most of the game is not a common occurrence. Of course, it could be the last visit there for a while as I think they are still in serious trouble and could go down. If they stay up by a point, Howard Webb deserves a letter of thanks from the self styled Geordie Nation.
Coming soon; 10 reasons why Newcastle United FC have no class whatsoever.