Saturday, 20th August 2005
This is mainly because one of my best mates originally comes from Gosforth so we invariably make a weekend of it. The last time I was in these parts Sky moved what was the opening game of the relegation season to the Monday night, 24 hours after emailing me to confirm that they had “no plans to cover” the match. Work commitments meant that we were unable to make the rearranged match so we went anyway, taking in Whitley Bay’s match against Billingham Synthonia in the process. This time around, Murdoch thankfully ignored us in favour of the obviously more attractive prospect of, er, Bolton v Everton. However, not trusting Sky, I checked to ensure that Whitley Bay were at home anyway, just in case.
A clear drive up the M1 & the ludicrously named A1(M) saw us arrive about lunchtime passing through Gateshead where, as any Auf Wiedersehen Pet aficionado will inform you, “sex is in its infancy”, a slogan that the local authority have scandalously chosen not to put on the town’s signs. Our first port of call was Steel Wheels, Newcastle’s finest record emporium which is run by Kirk, our host for the weekend. I manfully resisted the urge to do significant damage to my credit card whilst there despite the lovely smile from the dark-haired tattooed sales assistant memorably described as the “punk Olive Oyl”. We then moved on to our usual pre-match watering hole the Bacchus where I was in for a bit of a shock. The pub used to be a Geordie equivalent of the Wakefield but, as a result of the whole block being redeveloped the place has been now tarted up so that, for the first time ever, I actually wiped my feet on the way in rather than on the way out. We moved on to the spectacular art-deco architecture of the Bodega before a brief walk up the hill to the ground.
Now for a brief confession. Since they rebuilt the ground I’ve never sat in the away supporters bit at St James’s Park. Having mates up there I’ve normally blagged a spare season ticket or entry into the Platinum Club – nice padded seats in there. However this being my first Premiership season since I started buying away season tickets I decided that this year I’d sit in our bit. To say it’s a long way up is a bit of an understatement. The space shuttle actually orbits at a lower altitude than the away section at St James’s Park and quite how Romford, who is a big chap prone to suffering from vertigo, fared I have no idea.
View from the Hubble Space Telescope
The team news was that, having recovered from the illness that had seen him miss the Blackburn match, Repka came in for his first start of the season, replacing Dailly in the right back position. Otherwise it was “as you were” with a starting line-up of: Carroll, Repka, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Benayoun, Etherington, Mullins, Harewood, Sheringham. The side lined-up with Harewood alternating between midfield and attack to give a sort of 4-4-1-1 formation with young Edward & Harewood alternating between midfield and attack as required.
It was an even start as the confidence boost instilled in the second half against Blackburn continued to manifest himself and Given had to be on his toes to cut out an early cross from Matty. It was fairly even stuff though and shortly after Tomas was caught in a bit of a daydream, presumably dreaming of his end-of-season return to his homeland. A quick throw-in saw him out of position but Carroll was aware enough to snuff out the danger.
For the first 20 minutes we controlled the pace of the game without quite dominating. We did have a sticky 10 minutes or so 20 minutes in. Gabbidon failed to deal with a bouncing ball back towards Carroll. The hesitancy between the two nearly let in the home side in. Shortly after N’Zogbia brought a save out of Carroll having been put in by Babayaro but the clearest chance of all came our way on a few minutes later. A smooth fluent interchange of passes between Konchesky and Harewood saw the ball slipped through to Benayoun. Yossi won the race with Given to be the first to the ball but the ‘keeper managed to get enough of the ball to delay its progress across the line long enough for Babayaro to clear for a corner. This was followed by a Matty cross that young Edward could only divert over. In a tit-for-tat move at the other end, Shearer proved that he could match his former England partner in the “heading harmlessly over” stakes.
In truth, clear cut chances were at something of a premium. On our part, good work from midfield, particularly by Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins, was sometimes let down by our choosing the wrong option up front. Newcastle’s lack of firepower – Shearer being the only fit, unsuspended striker at the place – showed big time as the defence had what was, by and large, one of the more comfortable 45’s they are likely to encounter.
Towards the end of the half Harewood blocked a clearance from Given that soared up into the air knocking a few insulation tiles off that passing space shuttle. As the ball came down Harewood was bundled over by a defender though ref Gallagher decided that somehow this did not constitute a foul.
The very last kick of the half went to Yossi who entertained the 51,000 plus crowd with a delightful display of footwork out on the touchline.
The first action of the second half saw Teddy last a mere couple of minutes. Having picked up a knock in the first that had required treatment, young Edward’s aging legs failed to run off the problem and he was replaced by Shaun “10K” Newton.
Then came the moment that altered the whole complexion of what had been a fairly even match. NRC gave the ball away and a quick couple of passes caught us with too many players stranded upfield. Jenas was played in but a brilliant last ditch tackle from Konchesky saved the day. At least that was how 51,000 supporters of both sides saw it. Gallagher, who looks like a light bulb but isn’t quite as bright, decided that, despite all the evidence to the contrary and despite being well behind the play, he’d seen a foul and following a totally pointless conversation with his better-placed assistant he issued what has to be one of the least-deserved red cards ever.
Now I know referees only see things the once and it’s a difficult enough job at the best of times and mistakes will happen. However, if as AP later suggested, Gallagher refused to acknowledge his error when shown the video evidence then the FA should seriously question whether he should be doing the job. Incidentally, Gallagher was a late replacement for the original referee Barry Knight who was the ref last season when Bowyer & Dyer went three rounds with eachother. If Knight was replaced at the request of the home side I’d like to see us making a few requests of our own. I for one could quite happily go the rest of my life without ever seeing the likes of Poll, Rennie and the loathsome Mike Dean (if he’s not still suspended) ever again
The sending off changed the whole game. Whereas we had looked good for at least a point if not three, our reduction to 10 meant that we would have to work our socks off against the home side just to leave with what a point – or so we thought. The first priority though was dealing with the ridiculous free-kick that Gallagher had awarded. Shearer hit it low & hard from 25 yards out but Carroll dealt with it well.
The remaining 35 minutes were something of a revelation. The home side ought to have thrown everything at us but they seemed to lack the intelligence and guile to deal with a resolute defence and a midfield that ran its socks off. Even up front Marlon ran himself into the ground and caused the home defence the occasional problem. On one occasion he found himself thrown to the floor in the box though sadly (but predictably) Gallagher had his back to the incident.
On the few occasions that Newcastle were able to create anything they found Carroll equal to the task. A Bowyer cross/shot brought an excellent one handed save from the ‘keeper though his tip over from the same player’s 25-yarder looked a little less tidy. The siege mentality adopted by the travelling support also continued to make its presence felt as long spells of possession were greeted with the traditional one cheer per pass. “We’ve Only Got Ten Men”, “You’re Not Very Good” and “Easy Easy” all got an airing as the normally vociferous Toon Army got quieter and quieter as their side provided them with less and less to cheer. This followed a series of chants suggesting that Souness might be an early candidate for the collection of his P45.
With ten minutes to go on the clock Christian Dailly Football Genius replaced Yossi who was another who had gamely run and run all afternoon. Dailly might have opened the scoring when getting on the end of an Etherington free-kick but his header looped harmlessly over the bar. With seconds left Zamora came on for Harewood and the applause given to Marlon by the travelling support was well-merited.
With barely seconds of added time to go we nearly lost it. A move down the Newcastle left ended up with a near-post cross to Parker but the former Charlton (and some say Chelsea) player could only put his first time shot well over the top and the final whistle brought a point which was the very least we deserved.
Craggsy & Kirk were understandably subdued when we met up post-match though I thought that their description of their side as being a “steaming pile of poo.” The local “pink ‘un” was equally scathing, describing the home side as “Toothless Toon.” Such descriptions didn’t give us the credit we deserved. Given the constraints placed on the side by Gallagher’s aberration, the performance was arguably the equal of that of the previous week in so far as it showed what AP always likes to refer to as “character” and I thought the players did us proud. Kirk conceded that the away support was the best he’d seen all season but Craggsy, being Craggsy, felt compelled to suggest that we were the worst.
Instead of a night on the Toon we went for a more sophisticated soiree in Wylam, the picturesque village on the banks of the Tyne about 20 minutes away from the city centre. The village was the birthplace of George Stephenson, which was handy as it has a station. I’d have been overjoyed to stay all night in the Boathouse which appeared to have a brilliant selection of real ales but the desire by the team to visit all the village hostelries before closing time meant us moving on – thankfully before the horrors of the karaoke started. A selection of local ales were sampled in a selection of pubs. I was introduced to Vinny, a pal of Kirk’s. Vinny’s Geordie accent was so broad that, for the first time in 20 odd years of visiting the place I struggled to understand a blessed word a Geordie was saying. However, as the evening wore on and more and more of some splendid ales were imbibed. I reached personal my zone of saturation whereupon Vinny’s accent began to make perfect sense.
We finished up with a lock-in in a pub called the Jolly something or other before retiring back to Kirk Towers to perform the traditional ceremony of passing out in front of football where Gallagher’s decision looked even more absurd when seen through blurred and bloodshot eyes. We returned south on Sunday afternoon following a fine lunch at one of the pubs that hadn’t barred us following the previous evening’s activities.
Thanks to Kirk & Julie for the hospitality, Craggsy for sharing the driving in the “If Not Why Not mobile”, Ian & Thelma from the Jolly something or other for the afters and the rest of the lads & lasses for the company.
Finally the information without which no KUMB report from Tyneside would be complete: Final Score - Whitley Bay 0 Sunderland Nissan 1.
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Some good saves kept out the home side on the rare occasions they threatened to score.
Good solid performance at right back though he was scarcely tested by the opposition.
Another good run out scandalously brought to a premature end by Gallagher’s incompetence.
Hello Sven? After last week are you sure you’ve got the right brother? Ok that may be premature but it may not be totally out of the question – ask Shearer.
Resolute and determined throughout he played a full part in keeping what passed for a Newcastle attack at bay.
Unlike last week when he took a little while to adjust to the pace of the game, he ran the show from the start. Just edged NRC for MOTM in my opinion.
Another fine effort. AP said that the youngster thinks he’ll take the premiership by storm. Early days but he’s certainly on course.
Though he’s in the side for the flair that he brings to proceedings, this match showed that he’s not afraid to do his share of the donkey work when necessary. So much so that AP didn’t feel it necessary to bolster the midfield with the less subtle presence of Dailly until quite late on.
Looked threatening going forward and knuckled down well when Gallagher forced us onto the back foot.
Ran his legs off. Caused problems up front, chased lost causes and helped out when required in defence. Anyone who calls him lazy should ask the Newcastle defence if they agree.
Was doing well in the deeper role until injury curtailed his afternoon.
(Replaced Sheringham, 48) Got forward well until called upon to replace Konchesky in the left back position where he coped well for the most part.
(Replaced Benayoun, 78) Got his foot in a couple of times in his 10 minute spell and might have scored with a header.
(Replaced Harewood, 90) On for only a few minutes but proved an excellent outlet to relieve the pressure on the back four as time ticked away.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.
Booked: Marlon Harewood 88 .
Sent Off: Paul Konchesky 55 .
Given, Carr, Babayaro, Boumsong, Taylor, Parker, Jenas, Bowyer, N'Zogbia, Milner, Shearer.
Substitutes: Clark (N'Zogbia 63).
Subs not used: Harper, Elliott, Faye, Brittain.
Booked: Jenas (71).
Sent Off: None sent off..