Just 4 days ago, I watched Newcastle put in arguably their best performance of 2017 in their heartbreaking draw to Leeds at St. James’. With this in mind, I had high hopes yesterday, as Rafa picked an attacking side that looked well set to get back to winning ways against a mid-table Ipswich side. I was to be proved woefully wrong, however.
Ipswich ran out deserved 3-1 winners in what was a totally unacceptable and inept display from everyone involved in black and white. The defeat was a blow in itself, but it was the nature of it that was the most alarming thing.
Where do I start? There was a total lack of conviction about United. We looked deprived of all composure and quality, but perhaps the most startling thing was the absence of the sort of energy, intent and desire you come to expect at this stage of proceedings.
Naturally, I presumed the team would be itching to put right the wrongs of Friday night, being ready to give their all in a bid to secure promotion and stay in the title race. This was, however, anything but how we approached this one. If someone had told me it was Ipswich pushing for promotion and Newcastle were, in fact, the mid table side, I would’ve believed them! Only one side looked like they had one eye on their summer holidays and, rather inconceivably, it was us.
Newcastle looked lazy and laboured in everything they did, lumping hopeless long balls to the isolated Daryl Murphy, whilst constantly being second to any loose balls.
It would be unfair to single out certain players. We were shocking both individually and collectively, with Benitez also sharing a portion of the blame. He left out some of Friday’s best performers (Mitrovic, Mbemba and Anita), made late and suspect substitutions, as well as failing to adapt an ineffective NUFC game plan, seeing us resort to little other than hopeful long balls throughout.
The defeat was fully deserved and I can only hope it will serve as a much needed wake up call – not that one should be required given our recent short comings and what is currently at stake!
As I left the beam back at St. James’ Park, there was an overwhelming feeling of concern, between myself and several other fans, that the wheels may be coming off in our push for promotion. Defeats happen, but the nature of it was deeply worrying.
All eyes then turned to Huddersfield, who played in the late kick off at Derby, hoping to take advantage of our latest slip up.
Disaster struck as the Terriers took and early lead. At this stage, Huddersfield were set to move 5 points behind us with a game in hand. With the prospect of them being just 2 points behind us, should they hold on at Derby and win their game in hand, it was all looking too close for comfort.
In the 89th minute, however, Derby did us a monumental favour. A deflected strike from Jacob Butterfield salvaged a late draw for the Rams, seeing Huddersfield drop 2 points and gain just 1 on Newcastle, helping ease our fears of the unthinkable; being caught by David Wagner’s men.
— EmJay ✌️ (@EmmaKinsey7) April 17, 2017
It was a huge relief to see them denied of victory, given our appalling result earlier in the day, with their draw also seeing Chris Hughton’s Brighton officially achieve promotion to the Premier League – an achievement the former Newcastle boss thoroughly deserves, with his side looking nailed on for the title too.
There’s no getting away from how awful we were yesterday. We were alarmingly woeful in just about every respect, but Derby’s late equaliser against Huddersfield could prove to be huge and softens the blow of yesterday’s defeat (in terms of our push for promotion anyway).
It now means that, should Huddersfield fail to beat Fulham on Saturday, Newcastle can effectively seal promotion with a win over Preston on Monday night. Interestingly, Reading’s win over Rotherham yesterday saw them leapfrog Huddersfield, however, with no game in hand, being 6 points behind Newcastle, with considerably poorer goal difference, a win over Preston on Monday would also see them out of the automatic promotion picture.
Whilst events last night highlight that promotion is still well within our grasp, today’s result is a reality check for the club, reminding the fans of the work to be done should this Newcastle side regain their top flight status this summer.