Interim United Manager Chris
"I thought we deserved the win, and it was an absolutely clear
penalty. With some penalties, you're not sure if the referee's going to give it,
but I could have almost looked away – I was just waiting for him to point to
'It was a frustrating day, but I couldn't
fault the players' effort. We had opportunities and if we'd taken one of them I
could see us going on to get further goals.
"My frustration is not about the
performance, but about the result. It's certainly a better result for them
rather than for us."
The heroics of replacement goalkeeper Dean Gerken -
plus the woodwork at both ends of SJP and the match officials - frustrated
Newcastle on Saturday, as they passed up the opportunity to draw five points
clear in the league.
Confirmation came before kick-off that United boss Chris Hughton had retained
his August Manager of the Month award for September, but he was forced into
a defensive reshuffle when Enrique dropped out with a hamstring pull.
Danny Simpson moved across to left back, while Ryan Taylor slotted in on the
opposite flank. Meanwhile, Wednesday's substitute trio of Marlon Harewood,
Peter Lovenkrands and Jonas Gutierrez all made the starting XI.
After losing their 100% home record in midweek at home to QPR, the Magpies
looked keen to make amends from the off and Harewood crashed his shot
against the goalpost at the Leazes End within eight minutes of the kick-off.
The pressure continued, but from a rare breakaway City almost embarrassed
United, when a short back pass from Zurab Khizanishvili caught Steve Harper
stranded. Fortunately though, Lee Johnson was unable to do any more than
drag his low shot harmlessly across the box.
The Georgian then had his name taken after illegally halting Nicky Maynard's
forward run, as United lost their early momentum and looked in need of some
words of encouragement and advice during the half time break.
An upping of the tempo in the second half looked odds-on to pay dividends,
with Alan Smith failing to connect with one centre, before Lovenkrands
strode across the edge of the City area only to poke his effort narrowly
Stand-in keeper Gerken (only on the field after Newcastle allowed City to
alter their teamsheet moments before kick-off due to injury) then made two
outstanding saves just before the hour mark.
The former Colchester and Darlington custodian somehow blocked efforts from
Danny Guthrie and Kevin Nolan in quick succession, when both looked certain
And following the arrival of Andy Carroll to boost the attack, Gerken was a
bystander as an incredible melee in the City area saw first Steven Taylor
and then Nolan both hit the crossbar from close range, before Lovenkrands
skied the third shooting opportunity.
Thoughts that it just wasn't going to be our day then grew when referee
Graham Salisbury waved away a mass penalty appeal from Newcastle players,
officials and fans alike, after Marlon Harewood looked to be clearly
However, the seventeen minutes of normal time plus four additional minutes
after that point failed to see United carve out any further opportunities,
with the late introduction of Ranger muddling things up - and the youngster
needlessly conceding a free kick deep in his own half that allowed City to
run the clock down.
The final whistle was greeted with some mild booing that gave way to
restrained applause, former Newcastle reserve player Bradley Orr leaving the
field wearing a black & white shirt after a successful return to his old
Overall though - and despite an industrious afternoon from Alan Smith - too
many home players weren't quite on their game in this one, with crosses
over-hit and shots tried when passes looked preferable.
The forced deployment of Simpson in an unfamiliar left wing role helped
neither he nor Gutierrez in front of him, who seemed to miss the overlapping
runs of Enrique.
Last week's hat trick hero Nolan drifted in and out of the game, Lovenkrands
was underwhelming both through the middle and down the left and Guthrie had
a mixed afternoon - although he never threw in the towel.
But with only the unproven Donaldson and the pedestrian Butt or Geremi to
throw on, Newcastle lacked any plan B - and despite the considerable
presence of Carroll for the final quarter, proved capable of getting the
ball on his head just once - with the striker nodding wide.
The disappointment of failing to take only two of the six points available
from the pair of home games this week is perhaps heightened by the points
dropping of other sides, but to go into this international break on top of
the league is no mean feat - and above many people's expectations before
this season began.
While we will lose players to international callups and Barton has joined
the long-term injured list, the opportunity for our English non-England trio
of Guthrie, Smith and Nolan to take a breather is not to be sniffed at.
The announcement of a verdict in the Kevin Keegan v NUFC case 24 hours
before this game looks to at least remove one roadblock from possible
progress towards getting rid of the discredited figures who currently claim
ownership of this club.
It remains to be seen though whether anything has altered by the time we
kick off again in a fortnight on the banks of the Trent. One former manager
may now have got his money, but the current incumbent remains in the
unenviable position of working with no script and little support - either
financial or otherwise.
Something has to change, to allow the club to plan for the possibility of
promotion next summer and more immediately to look at recruitment options
for January that keep us on track. We continue to live in interesting