This afternoon’s trip to Carrow Road ended in defeat for the Magpies with a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Canaries.
Alan Pardew fielded five changes to the side that had faced Chelsea in their previous match and this presented a full league debut to Italy U21 international Davide Santon. The centre-back pairing of James Perch and Danny Simpson was very makeshift and it surprised many that Tamas Kadar was not involved in the matchday squad.
The first ten minutes of the game started off very well for the visitors, they had the majority of possession and had settled the quicker out of the two sides. As the first half grew on, Norwich began to have the ascendency by forcing themselves further and further into Newcastle’s half.
Norwich did find themselves through on goal when Grant Holt out muscled James Perch. Holt advanced towards goal but a superb intervening tackle from Danny Simpson saw him block the ball and stop Norwich from taking the lead.
This was always going to be a hard test for Alan Pardew’s side, with both centre-backs out through injury this showed the side at their weakest. Although James Perch and Danny Simpson dealt with Norwich’s attacks in the game, they came undone whenever there was an aerial battle between the Magpies defence and the Canaries attack.
There had been seen good play from the Newcastle side during the half, perticularly when Dan Gosling fed the ball out to Ryan Taylor who then crossed the ball into the box for the advancing Gosling, who had continued his run forward, to volley goalwards. It was a flowing move and there were more demonstrated during the half.
The breakthrough came when Norwich gained a dubious corner in the 38th minute. Tim Krul was adjudged to have carried the ball out of play although subsequent TV replays showed that this wasn’t the case. The resulting corner came in and was headed goalwards by Andrew Crofts who forced a fine save from Krul. Unfortunately the rebound smacked straight against Wes Hoolahan who prodded it towards goal only for it to take a double deflection on its way into the back of the net.
Pardew and his team will feel aggrieved with the corner decision but those back defending were not decisive enough to make a decision to deal with it. There is also an argument to suggest that Norwich could have opened the scoring earlier on after what looked to be a handball in the penalty area from Davide Santon.
It seemed like Newcastle were to end the first half a goal down but thanks to Yohan Cabaye’s sublime pass Demba Ba found himself through on goal and calmly slotted the ball past John Ruddy into the back of the Norwich net. That meant the two sides went in at the break level at 1-1.
The second half continued with the same exuberance that had been exhibited in the first half. But ultimately, Newcastle’s makeshift centre-back pairing failed to outjump the likes of Steve Morrison and Grant Holt. Their aerial prowess proved to be our downfall, which was always the concern with two short defenders in the heart of defence.
Unfortunately Dan Gosling’s eagerness to be handed a chance to prove himself was his own downfall. He had showed some decent passing and pace during the game but that was all to be lost in a bad period for the player. When trying to retrieve the ball he passed it straight to a Norwich player only for them to cross for Morrison to head into the back of the net. Trying to perhaps make amends for his mistake, Gosling went in for a challenge with his studs up catching a Norwich player and he was shown a straight red card. His moment of madness has now cost us another player who is unavailable for games.
There was still some life in the game and Newcastle never backed down, even when left with ten men, and that was testament to the resilience that Alan Pardew has instilled in his players. On 71 minutes Demba Ba got his second of the game to reduce the deficit and make it 3-2. However it was Norwich who scored again with Grant Holt gaining his second of the match and putting the match beyond the reach of Newcastle United.
There were positives to be taken from the game though. Ryan Taylor looked a lot more settled at right-back and Davide Santon looked decent considering it was his first Premier League start. Santon showed his attacking ability by going forward several times and looked very comfortable on the ball and that bodes well for the future as there could be an very good partnership forged between him and Jonas Gutierrez in the next few weeks.
Changes undoubtedly need to be made for the next game though. There were players who were too quiet throughout and the makeshift centre-back pairing is one that needs to be addressed as that is a weak point that any team we come up against will be targeting.
The game at Carrow Road was always going to be a tough test with both centre-backs out through injury. Pardew’s gamble did not pay off and the Magpies now need to address the defeat and make sufficient changes to the side for their next game.
Newcastle still sit seventh in the table and are seven points clear of those behind them, and that is something that I never thought we would be after this amount of fixtures.
Howay the lads!
Norwich: Ruddy; Martin, Morison, Whitbread, Crofts, Holt (C), Surman, Hoolahan, Fox, Tierney, Naughton
Subs: Rudd, Johnson, Jackson, Pilkington, Bennett, Barnett, Wilbraham
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Ryan Taylor, Danny Simpson, James Perch, Davide Santon; Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Dan Gosling, Jonas Gutierrez (c); Demba Ba, Shola Ameobi
Subs: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Alan Smith, Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Peter Lovenkrands, Leon Best