Newcastle lost yet more ground to relegation rivals yesterday by losing yet another home game, yet another game in fact, this time to Reading.
In terms of the game itself it could be described using the old cliche of being ‘a game of two halves’ as United went from almost the sublime to the ridiculous in a very short space of time.
The first half was excellent. Probably the best we’ve played all season. We dominated possession, created chances, looked assured at the back and showed a confidence that belies our perilous league position. In fact if it wasn’t for a trio of fantastic saves from Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici we’d have gone in at half-time out of sight and with three points in the bag.
But things changed in the second half and you could see confidence was drained from the side as the game went on. Alan Pardew didn’t help matters by withdrawing the influential Sylvain Marveaux and Yohan Cabaye – moves that were met with disapproval from the home crowd although in fairness it turned out that the latter change was due to injury and Cabaye himself had asked to be substituted.
Newcastle started off brightly and dictated the play for long periods, but it wasn’t until the 15th minute that the first chance was created with Federici on hand to smother a Yohan Cabaye effort at his near post. Further chances soon followed however and once again it was Federici on hand to deny the home side.
Yohan Cabaye dinked a fine ball in for Papiss Cisse who saw his header deflected wide by a flying Federici. Cisse then unleashed a volley on the turn at goal which unfortunately fell straight to Federici instead of either side of him where the sheer power of the snapshot would have surely resulted in a goal.
However a goal soon came as Yohan Cabaye burst down the right and squared the ball for Sylvain Marveaux who continued his run towards the Reading goal before being brought down just outside the penalty area. The two architects of the chance stood over the free-kick but it was Cabaye who took it and sent the ball into the top corner of the Gallowgate net leaving Adam Federici looking like he was constructed from the snow that lay around the side of the St James’ Park pitch.
So a slender lead at half-time which was probably less than our play deserved, but 1-0 is a dangerous scoreline and so it proved as Reading came into the game in the second period. It was still United who had the bulk of the ball but they weren’t as forceful as they were in the first-half, which combined with a fresh hunger from Reading proved to be our downfall.
Shola Ameobi blazed a chance over the bar when he could have passed to Davide Santon who was in a better position to make the most of the chance, but that was it before the introductions of James Perch and Gael Bigirimana changed the game as United looked to shut up shop.
It failed. Reading also made a change as Adam Le Fondre came on to boost their attacking options, and he put the away side level with his first touch. Jimmy Kebe was allowed far too much space by Davide Santon giving the Reading winger the perfect opportunity to cross. Mike Williamson missed the ball completely allowing Le Fondre to slide in behind him and force the ball into the back of the net, possibly with both his arms helping him along the way.
Just six minutes later Reading turned it around as United switched off and failed to clear allowing Le Fondre to fire home from 15 yards out. I’d ask why Fabricio Coloccini didn’t try and close Le Fondre down but I can’t as questioning our captain appears to be off limits with some fans.
Newcastle tried to level the match but they were unable to create anything of note until the ball fell to Cisse at the back stick. I can only assume he wasn’t aware just how much time he had, but he was unmarked and even though his shot was on the turn he still missed by a mile.
And that was that. Another home loss, another defeat, and another weekend where a side below us gained ground on us. Another step closer to the trap door. Another indication that action is required to sort out what has turned into a crisis on Tyneside.
I thought they were supposed to be a thing of the past?
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye; Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse
Subs: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Steven Taylor, Gael Bigirimana, Gabriel Obertan, Sammy Ameobi, Nile Ranger
Reading: Adam Federici; Stephen Kelly, Alex Pearce, Adrian Mariappa, Ian Harte; Mikele Leigertwood, Danny Guthrie; Jimmy Kebe, Garath McCleary, Jobi McAnuff; Pavel Pogrebnyak
Subs: Stuart Taylor, Chris Gunter, Sean Morrison, Hope Akpan, Jem Karacan, Adam Le Fondre, Noel Hunt