It’s only January, yet this was billed as a six-pointer. Reading, who like Newcastle haven’t won an away game all season are scrapping away at the wrong end of the table and are in the bottom three. Newcastle on the other hand are perilously close to the relegation places and have been free falling ever since Pardew signed his eight year contract. Getting a win here was vital for both teams.
In the first-half NUFC had the lion’s share of the game, creating multiple chances and making the rotund figure of Adam Federici work hard. Chances were spurned, but a couple of guilt edge chances fell the way of Cisse and Cabaye, but Federici did well to spurn the advances of Newcastle. The return of Cabaye to Newcastle’s midfield appeared to make all the difference, as the Toon were happy to control the game – just not from the kick-off as the third touch was a hoof downfield.
Cabaye it was though who opened the deadlock with a sublime finish from a free-kick. The Frenchman showed Newcastle fans what they’d been missing as he coolly stepped up from the edge of the box and slotted the ball into the top corner. Toon lead at half-time 1-0.
The second-half was as mysterious to 50-odd thousand Geordies as an episode of the Twilight Zone. With Reading in the ascendancy, Pardew brings off Sylvain Marveaux and replaces him with James Perch in the 65th minute – I don’t have an issue with this substitution, protecting the back four is alright by me. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that as Reading equalized almost immediately after our sub (and theirs), as Adam Le Fondre bundles the ball home. Defensive lapses from Santon in letting the ball be played over in the first place, and Williamson in not being strong enough both contributed to a sloppy goal.
Now, the issue I have is with Pardew subbing Yohan Cabaye and bringing on Bigirimana. If the reports are right that Cabaye was complaining about his injury at half-time, why not put Perch on for Cabaye as the first sub, and keep Marveaux on the field as our remaining creative player? Bringing off both creative players is bizarre to say the least, and either way you try to think about it makes no sense at all. It makes our play predictable as we send hit and hope balls forward and no class to unlock a defence. In addition, it puts us on the back foot as we sit back and try to protect what we have – where have we seen this before?
To compound the misery further, Reading sub Adam Le Fondre managed to squeeze off a shot in the 77th minute that went past Perch, Coloccini, and Tim Krul. But fear not! On comes Gabriel Obertan for Vurnon Anita..oh, wait. That didn’t work either.
So, a miserable afternoon for Geordies around the world as some bizarre substitutions ended what had promised to be a decent game for the Toon. We have 10 days to wait until the Villa game, and if we don’t win that, then we really are in some serious trouble. It should be made clear that managers with better results have been sacked for underperforming – this is 10 losses out of 13. No pressure, Pardew.