Reds can’t break down sharp-shooting Newcastle..

Perch: My man of the match for us, which perhaps highlights our difficulties in breaking down Toon going forward...

Newcastle United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 0

Ultimately a frustrating game – but a promising performance compared to recent away trips left me feeling not too bad.  Of course, an entertaining day and evening out on ‘the Toon’ always lessens the blow of coming away from a game with no points.  Definitely one of my favourite night-out destinations in the UK, so those of you who travelled to and fro on the day definitely missed out!

An even first half, indeed, a fairly even ninety on possession – but the critical difference between the sides was the incisiveness of the passing of the home side, their finishing and of course one notable slip in losing possession in a key area for us.  It highlights why Newcastle are sitting pretty at the summit, and we are just short of reaching that level just yet.

If Old Trafford is the theatre of dreams then St James’ Park is the theatre of unfulfilled dreams – from the swanky Shearer’s bar to the massive stand we were housed in – this is a club geared up for the very top.  Unfortunately for the undoubtedly passionate Toon fans (I didn’t see any fat topless blokes crying, which is their tabloid-led stereotype), that hasn’t translated to the success on the field they crave so badly.

Before and after the game I had endless conversions with locals about the footy which was great – and whilst I was underwhelmed by the noise they created in the ground (excepting the initial roar and after the second goal went in) that could be said for most home grounds around the country including ours… and of course, given our position the acoustics could’ve made it hard to hear them anyway.

So yes, the game… Billy opted for a kind of converting 4-5-1/4-4-2 formation.  A trip to the opticians might be in order for me as I took to identifying players by boot colour rather than numbers (particuarly when McCleary and McGoldrick were on later!)… but the starting eleven looked kinda like this, with Tys often joining Dex up front early in the half, and the midfield swapping about quite a bit…

Camp
Perch   Morgan    Wilson   Gunter
Anderson    Moussi    Majewski    Cohen    Tyson
Blackstock

It was a bright start from the Reds, much to the surprise of many of us in the away end – Tys almost broke through but for attentions from Collicini, Tys again was positive crossing to Anderson but a fairly weak header went over.  However, it certainly was anything but one-way traffic – Routledge put in a great ball which Carroll got a toe on to put towards goal, with Camp needing to be alert to make a decent save.

Forest were looking up for it, and as we’ve seen – playing against sides who don’t shape up to spoil, we can compete.  We were very quick to close down the Toon players and forced a few admittedly non-critical errors.  As the half went on the home side did build pressure, Perch did excellently to stop Lovenkrands in the area, then it was a case of the whole defence blocking the persistent Andy Carroll.

Some good work from the team saw Raddy hauled back on the edge of the area (just outside for me, but I was miles away), but the referee definitely turned out to be a bit of a ‘homer’ – he waved play on, mercifully at least not booking Majewski for simulating.  He certainly didn’t appear to be – he’d got past his man and was being held back!

Certainly after the kick off the loudest we heard the Newcastle fans was in offering the referee advice – and generally he seemed to take it.  That said, shortly after there was an incident in our box they were claiming that wasn’t given… so he didn’t always default to the home side!  I had no chance of being able to see what actually happened so won’t even speculate!!

The best chance for us in the game was probably a good summary of our attacking all night really – some nice passing build-up play culminated in a decent cross in by Tys, picking out Dex on the penalty spot who tried to connect on the volley with his left foot.  Unfortunately it was a miskick and went well wide, a real shame as he was positioned brilliantly and might’ve even had half a chance of controlling before hitting it.

It was almost a double-bastard moment too – Gutierrez had a shot which caused a mass pile-up in the six yard box.  Again, at the other end of the pitch I couldn’t make out what happened, but the referee let play go on for ages seemingly, before eventually blowing up for something.  The half ended with a wayward cross from the Argentian, who’d been marshalled excellently by Perch at rightback (Perch is my shout for man of the match).

The second half saw the Reds again press to try to grab a goal – a great break by Anderson ended with a cross to Tyson whose header would give Harper no bother at all.  A couple of times we broke with pace and in numbers greater than our opponents, but the final ball was shockingly bad a few times letting Newcastle off the hook – indeed, over 90 minutes we never seriously tested Harper.

Carroll was withdrawn shortly after the second half started, replaced by Ameobi – which was good in one way, Carroll is a handful – but well, Ameobi isn’t half a bad replacement at this level, is he?  Much like Carroll, Ameobi goes to ground rather easily though, and bought Wes a booking and his side a dubious freekick – which fortunately was put well over by Guthrie.

Tys – who’d had a good first half but struggled to get into the second (apparently – unsurprisingly – he’s carrying an injury too) so McCleary replaced him.  And almost immediately after (despite what the fools sitting near me said, it was nothing to do with the change), the increasingly dominant home side were able to break the deadlock with around seventy minutes on the clock.

The Reds lost the ball trying to play their way out of trouble instead of clearing their lines, a mix up between Cohen and Majewski (I think) saw the ball end up with Nolan who played the ball to Ameobi who made a cracking run, and shot early through Perchy’s legs, and into the far corner – finding the net via the post.  A great finish – a real example of making the most of your chances.

Billy responded by taking off the flagging Majewski and putting on Earnie – but the home side really had their metaphorical tails up and were pressuring us.  A powerful shot by Routledge was fairly routinely saved by Camp, but given the wet conditions and the power of the shot he could only parry it.  Blackstock was next to be withdrawn for David McGoldrick, with around fourteen minutes left on the clock.

The home side continued to press, and Forest were looking slightly without a midfield as we sat deeper and deeper to absorb it.  Again Camp was on hand to reduce the deficit with a good save from Nolan, and the midfielder threatened again moments later this time with Wes on hand to clear the danger with his head at the expense of a corner.

Another dubious freekick, another Guthrie effort – this time very much on target and it was well saved by Camp.  However, Newcastle pressed on into stoppage time and their final goal was a cracker (well, the move was).  A clever backheel in the box by Nolan (I think, could be wrong) found Enrique who danced past his man and put a shot in at the near post  which – in honesty – Camp should be looking to save I think.  Great move though.

Which was pretty much game over.  As the home ends emptied amazingly fast considering the volume of people, the Reds fans lingered to applaud the Forest players, who I assume could hear us (Billy certainly heard us during the game).  It was a good effort, but really highlighted some of our deficiencies – given that this Newcastle side is a bit weaker than the one that was relegated from the top flight, it does underline the daunting gap to the next level.

All in all, I was expecting defeat with all but that optimistic bit of me that always expects something more – so it was a ‘par’ performance.  To have seen glimpses of good play was a definite bonus, and gives me some heart – but really barring an epic disaster by the top two, it’s looking like the playoffs for us – and almost certain promotion for Newcastle, and congratulations to them if that is indeed how things transpire.