14 mins A half-cleared corner was
returned into the United box by James O'Connor, with an unmarked Luke Varney
to head home, despite the presence of two United players on the line. 0-1
19 mins Danny Simpson and Shola Ameobi combined down the United right
and worked the ball to Danny Guthrie. He made it to the byline and found Kevin
Nolan, who picked his spot and converted in front of the Kop with a
decent header. 1-1
22 mins Jonas Gutierrez took possession near to the left corner of
the Owls box and laid a low pass forward to Shola Ameobi. He turned
infield and evaded two defenders before rifling home his 58th goal for the
club from just inside the area.
It later became apparent that he had received the ball when in an offside
position (along with the 'inactive' Marlon Harewood), before checking back,
heading across the box and shooting. 2-1
Half time: Owls 1 Magpies 2
59 mins a hopeful cross from the left was swung in towards Harper, who
was preparing to make a two-handed catch as Varney jumped with him. He made
contact with the ball about two yards from goal, heading it onto the
crossbar but linking arms with Harper as he followed through.
That was enough to impede the United 'keeper, who turned away from goal just
in time to see the arriving O'Connor ram the loose ball into the net from
four yards. 2-2
Not since a 2-1 victory on this ground back in 1988 have Toon travellers had a
Boxing Day victory to celebrate. And even dropping down a division failed to
improve our miserable form on this day, with the name of Sheffield added to a
list that now reads Stoke, Leeds, Derby, Bolton, Leicester, Blackburn,
Liverpool, Bolton and Wigan.
As the KLF once said, it's grim up North - and unless NUFC alter their policy
of requesting away games on December 26th* (avoiding the need to begin home
match preparations on Christmas Day), then next season will see a ninth
successive mobilisation of supporters from Tyneside and beyond.
Given that many of the travelling Toon contingent had come "on the
buses", then for some geezer called Varney to open the scoring for the
home side was a typical moment of low comedy.
Having been excused training on Christmas Day, a lethargic-looking United
seemed in the mood to hand out gifts, failing to chase a half-cleared corner
down and being duly punished by Varney - on loan at Hillsborough from Derby
That was the first goal that managerless Wednesday had scored in 631 minutes,
but while the relief around Hillsborough was tangible, going behind had a
positive effect on Newcastle and they were level within five minutes.
That goal came from Kevin Nolan - who had once provided his own touch of Boxing
Day Toon gloom when shoving Peter Ramage in the back, causing him to register
an own goal at the Reebok Stadium.
And having scored from their first attack, Chris Hughton's side promptly
repeated the trick from their next, as Shola Ameobi continued his post-injury
goalscoring form with a decent - if illegal - strike.
Conceding two quick goals had a debilitating effect on the home side, who went
into this match on the back of five losses and were winless in their last ten
outings. However, Newcastle were unable to press home their advantage in
the form of more scoring chances, despite dominating the rest of the first
And they were made to pay when a brighter Owls display in the second period saw
them take the initiative, as a lack of movement and control from our front duo
left the Magpies frustratingly unable to retain possession.
After surviving a series of needlessly-conceded corners, United duly conceded a
half-expected equaliser - but from the far end of the ground things had an air
of unreality as Wednesday hit the bar and netted the rebound - someone called
O'Connor this time delivering the punchline,
There were some protests - and a belated moan at match referee Stuart Attwell
from Harper later in the game - but a certain suspicion that the whistler had
been made aware of the first half rick for the Ameobi goal and was trying to
even up the crime count.
With half an hour remaining, there was optimism that conceding again would
deliver another much-needed kick in the shorts for the visitors, but despite
using all three substitutes, things were little improved.
Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands replaced Ameobi and Harewood, while Fabrice
Pancrate came on to provide some width down the right - which never
Had we been in charge of the side, then Ryan Taylor would certainly have come
off the bench, having scored against us for Wigan on this day in both 2007 and
2008. And although that reveals much about our superstitious approach, we could
have done with some of his dead balls or swooping crosses into the Owls area.
Wednesday fancied a winner of their own and Harper did well to get something in
the way of a Marcus Tudgay effort.
Carroll's first intervention was almost crucial, as he bullied his way into the
Owls area and saw Lee Grant block a shot, Pancrate blazing the rebound wildly
over after Harewood laid the ball back to him.
That proved to be our best chance, Harewood failing to sign off his Gallowgate
loan spell with a goal and doing his prospects of a return little good with a
performance that again drew criticism from the travelling support.
Regardless of the opposition though, taking a point from an away game in which
we were decidedly off-colour is a welcome return and more than we achieved on
similar "off days" at Forest & Scunny.
As Barnsley had done though in our last away game, Wednesday profited by
dropping crosses into the United area and putting our defence under pressure.
And with Nicky Butt filling in for the absent Smith, things were a tad chaotic
in the centre of the park, where pace, control and creativity were all largely
At the 23 game halfway point in the season, the draw took us to a half century
of points and left us eight points ahead of second-placed West Bromwich
Albion, who have one game in hand.
Whether the Boxing Day away curse will be lifted next season remains to be
seen, but despite today's result there's still justifiable optimism that in 12
months time we'll be trekking down the A1 en route to a top-flight ground. And
doubtless enduring more festive generosity and slapstick.
* NUFC subsequently told us that our
claim was "absolutely untrue and inaccurate".