Newcastle’s extended their unbeaten run to 11 league games this afternoon with a very creditable 2-2 against Champions League aspiring Tottenham Hotspur at St James’ Park.
The match had, rather harshly in my opinion, been billed as our first real test of the season and despite the fact that we only managed a draw I think it’s fair to say that we passed it and that there are clear signs of progression at the club.
Alan Pardew named an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row and resisted the urge to call upon Davide Santon, Hatem Ben Arfa or Sylvain Marveaux who had to make do with a spot on the bench despite calls from some quarters to change things around.
This match showed the spirit that the team have currently, and there were signs of our more flamboyant side at times as Newcastle threatened to take all three points towards the end of the game. We pegged Tottenham back twice and in the end could have had three points for our effort but it wasn’t to be and a point a piece, along with top four consolidation, was the overall result of the day.
Most of the first half was played away from each respective goalmouth and both sides rarely threatened or looked capable of breaking the deadlock. Neither side really mustered an attempt on goal although it was the away side who struck the first blow courtesy of a gift from the home side just before half-time.
Yohan Cabaye received the ball facing his own goal but was outmuscled by Jake Livermore. Scott Parker pinged the loose ball through to Emmanuel Adebayor who took a touch away from goal only for Steven Taylor to come marauding in and attempt a tackle with his less favoured left foot. The result was a stonewall penalty to Tottenham which Rafel Van der Vaart duly despatched after sending Tim Krul the wrong way.
Half-time: Newcastle 0-1 Tottenham
Newcastle hit back almost immediately after the restart though after great work by Jonas Gutierrez who took the ball past two Tottenham defenders and stood the ball up for an unmarked Demba Ba in the middle of the penalty area. The Senegal international struck the ball straight at Brad Friedel but the power of it was too much for the American to keep out. 1-1.
From then on you could have expected the home side to push on and take the ascendency, but it was the away side who had the better chances. Adebayor went close before Van der Vaart shot straight at Krul and all this was before Jermaine Defoe, on as a sub for Van der Vaart, managed to turn Ryan Taylor and smash the ball into the bottom corner of Tim Krul’s net.
Once again Newcastle tried to get themselves level which made Tottenham into a real threat on the counter attack although they were guilty of not picking the right final ball to punish an usually open Newcastle United defence.
Off went Demba Ba and an ineffectual Leon Best to be replaced by Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa. With Frenchman dubbed as some form of super king of the world from some fans I was expecting great things, like the solving of third world hunger for example. However it was Shola who stole the show.
This was Barcelona defying, Mackem slaying Shola at his devastating best and Tottenham just couldn’t cope with him. I can’t actually recall a time where he lost the ball as he twisted and turned the Spurs defence in and out repeatedly. Than came the pièce de résistance just four minutes from time as Shola smashed a left-footed drive past a despairing Brad Freidel and into the back of the Gallowgate net.
From then on there was only ever to going to be one side who went on to win the match as the home side looked to force home their advantage. It wasn’t to be though despite the fact there were chances for us to wrap things as the match finished up 2-2.
If this was our first real test then I have to say that I’m confident we passed it. Newcastle showed great desire to get the point and come from behind twice against a team that are tipped for the top four.
How far can we go? who knows, but I think we have an outside chance of a top six finish providing things keep ticking along nicely. We’ll see though as there is still along way to go and I’m just enjoying each game as it comes.
Wigan at home next!
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan, Leon Best, Demba Ba.
Subs: Rob Elliot, Davide Santon, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux, Dan Gosling, Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi.
Tottenham: Brad Friedel, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, Kyle Walker, Gareth Bale, Scott Parker, Jake Livermore, Luka Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart, Emmanuel Adebayor.
Subs: Carlo Cudicini, Sebastien Bassong, Danny Rose, Andros Townsend, Giovani Dos Santos, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe.
Referee: Lee Probert.