A game that was not so much about the football played but the result at the end of the game – The Toon started off with an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation with Ryan Taylor and Damien Duff getting up and down the flank. However, even though I appreciate Alan Shearer’s willingness to change the system, perhaps away to Stoke wasn’t the best moment. Newcastle’s failure to defend was again rather obvious as Stoke went forward almost at will using those long balls forward and set-pieces with devastating effect.
The Newcastle players were warned this week by manager Shearer that they were in for a battle. How right he was. Newcastle were on the ropes from the off as the physicality of Stoke began to take it’s toll. A corner (that should have been a goal-kick), resulted in Shola Ameobi losing his man inside the 18 yard box and former Toon player Abdoulaye Faye with acres of space headed it into the back of the net. Newcastle were fortunate to go in only one down and had no first-half opportunities to speak of.
If Shearer had warned his players about Stoke’s attacking prowess at half-time you wouldn’t have known. Right from the kick-off some sloppy play by Newcastle let Stoke through on goal, and saved only by the grace of God as Stoke didn’t take advantage of their superiority. Shearer introduced Jonas first for the ineffective Danny Guthrie and then brought on Gateshead born Andy Carroll for Shole Ameobi. These changes forced Newcastle United to go back to a much more familiar 4-4-2 formation and it began to show. However it wasn’t until the 81st minute that Andy Carroll, fresh from bagging a brace in the reserves mid-week, rose to meet a Damien Duff cross with a sublime header that went beyond the grasp of Sorensen. This sent the Toon’s voiciferous supporters into mayhem and the joy it brought the Newcastle players was plain to see.
A draw probably did not help any of the teams in terms of avoiding the drop, but Newcastle and Shearer can take momentum from this game going into the game against Spurs next weekend, proud of their second-half battling performance.