Glensider Away At St James Park
St James Park
Attendance: 44 567
Its late, the early hours of Tuesday morning, I'm tired, and all I can think of to say to kick off this away day report, is what a disappointing night that was.
We had the beating of the geordies, as our first half efforts proved, but once the second half got underway, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Missed first half chances didn't help our cause, but overall, we just didn't do enough.
Three points thrown away? I certainly think so, although I have to say that this rejuvenated Newcastle United team, didn't look anything like a bottom of the table team, particularly during the second forty-five, when they really got their act together. We lacked belief, and we paid the price.
One of the best things about having four of you regularly enjoy car trips to the away games, is that on three of the four occasions when you're not the designated driver, you can kick back, enjoy the view, partake freely in the stops for refreshments, read the days papers, sing along to the in car entertainment, and concentrate 100% on the considerable Villa related debate and discussion that helps eat away the miles.
Todays on route discussions centred around the usual whose performing, who isn't debate, views on the game ahead, possible transfer talk, and which team we'd put out to see off the days opponents, and as today was one of my 'lucky' trips, i.e., not having to drive, I was fully able to enjoy the relatively long trip into the north-east, readily expressing my views on the current Villa Park scene.
With a tough game in Prague coming up on Thursday, we all agreed that we wouldn't be too surprised to see two or three changes to the starting line up tonight, particularly in view of MON's recent comments regarding rotation, and the need for fringe players to step up to the plate.
Imagine then our surprise when arriving at the impressive and somewhat imposing St James Park, we find that our only change from the line-up that started against Blackburn Rovers, was that Big John Carew was in, replacing the injured Stilyan Petrov.
We made our way to our seats, still high up in the gods, but now situated wide to the left behind the goal, and witnessed a reasonably bright start by Mart's Marauders.
Overall it was a fairly even open quarter of an hour, with both sides looking dangerous, but neither keeper was seriously tested.
Duff took a dive in the box, the geordies howling for a spot-kick, yet while the referee clearly wasn't fooled by Duff's theatrics, he decided for some inexplicable reason not to produce a yellow card.
Gabby then wasted a golden opportunity to put us ahead, failing to get his foot on the ball just five yards out, and the geordies responded with Friedel doing well to save from the impressive Joey Barton, who a moment or two earlier appeared to slap Gabby across the face. Don’t know if the tv cameras caught the incident, maybe it wasn't as intentional as it looked, but the referee clearly missed it, or deemed it accidental.
Overall it was an entertaining first half, played in cold, windy conditions, but in truth we should really have gone in at the break a goal or two ahead. Newcastle finished the half brightly, but we had enjoyed the best chances, with Martin Laursen hitting the post, and Gabby's unfortunate air shot.
Optimism amongst the travelling Villa contingent was still very much the name of the game during the break, certainly most in our vicinity believing that we were more than capable of stepping up a gear during the second half, and returning to dear old Brummagem with three very valuable points in the bag.
It wasn't to be. The home team were the ones to raise their game, Martins a lively opponent, keeping our defence on its toes at all times, while Barton, despite being booked shortly after the break for a studs up challenge, continued to look lively in midfield. Martins got himself booked near the hour mark, when after winning a free kick out near the corner flag, he decided to wave the imaginery yellow card in the direction of referee Bennett, and was rightly booked.
Ameobi shot just wide following the resultant free-kick, but within a couple of minutes Newcastle were ahead, following a clever turn and finish from Martins.
Shortly after, Nicky Butt Butt beat Brad Friedel all ends up with a free-kick, but we were all relieved to see the shot clip the post and go wide.
Steve Sidwell, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes after replacing Nicky Shorey, was booked for a challenge on Martins, and it has to be said that by this stage Newcastle were well on top, looking comfortable, as we continued to struggle to create anything.
It was no surprise to anyone when with around ten minutes remaining, the impressive Martins made the game safe for Kinnear's lot, forcing the ball home after good work by Gutierrez, who left NRC for dead out wide.
It was all over bar the shouting, we simply lacked ideas or inspiration. All that lay ahead of us was the long and miserable drive back to Brum.
Right, its just after 2.30 a.m., time I think for me to hit the sheets, particularly as I need to be up at 6.00 a.m.
Disappointed, dejected, but time to focus now on Thursday and that important little encounter over in Prague. Come On You Lions!