Newcastle United went into yesterday’s game against Blackburn in confident mood after defeating West Ham, thrashing Sunderland, and performing very well against a full strength Arsenal side. NUFC’s winning run though was brought to an end after Jason Roberts capitalised on defensive errors which meant that Sam Allardyce left St. James’ Park with the full three points.
It was Roberts’ second goal in as many games as he put Newcastle to the sword. It wasn’t all Roberts’ doing though, as Morten Gamst Pedersen got Rovers off to a flyer in the third minute. Man of the moment Andy Carroll managed to grab an equaliser for the Toon with a towering header on the 47th minute mark.
Sam Allardyce’s game plan was clear from the outset – be very hard to break down and fight for all the 50/50 balls. It worked like a treat as Newcastle lacked the creative spark of Ben Arfa – they have the graft and guile, but when teams put up shop and play five across the back, we struggle.
However, the night won’t be remembered for the football, but for what Joey Barton managed to get himself into. TV cameras caught Barton jab Pedersen in the ribs, and Pedersen’s way over the top reaction drew more attention to the matter than was probably needed. Pedersen did stick out an elbow which caught Barton, but Joey has got to be smarter than to get caught up in the heat of the moment and react.
The annoying thing about this situation, is how quickly the Football Association have jumped on this and handed out a three match suspension. What about the tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa by Nigel De Jong – where are the repercussions for that? That was potentially a career ending tackle, but Barton digs Pedersen in the ribs and he’s suspended for three matches?
What about the stamp by Tom Huddleston on Bolton’s Johan Elmander? Where’s the action by the F.A for that? Yes, Barton made a bad decision, there’s no denying that, and any punishment that comes his way is justified, but let’s have some consistency here. If the Football Association want the support of the Geordies for the World Cup bid, they’re going the wrong way about it.
After all is said and done, Newcastle are still fifth in the league, six points ahead of 18th place. Our target for this season has to be a 17th place finish. The good form we’ve shown recently has gotten the Geordie faithful in a confident mood, but we’d be ignorant if we didn’t remember where we were last season.
If it wasn’t for our away from, we’d be much lower than we are right now, and surely Chris Hughton’s primary task is to sort the home form out. If we are able to play against Arsenal at the Emirates and come away with a win, why do we roll over for teams we are expected to beat at St. James’s Park? Only Chris Hughton and his players can answer that one. Let’s hope the answer comes sooner rather than later.