So, we go again!
Newcastle’s 9 game winning run came to an end today at the hands of struggling Blackburn at St James Park.
After facing far more tricky tasks in recent weeks, on paper at least, the hosting of the Lancashire club was expected to yield a 10th straight win in all competitions and was seen by many, including Rafa, as a chance to try a few other players to allow some to be rested before our League Cup Quarter Final at Hull next week.
Those selected didn’t really make the mark, although the entire team looked flat from the first whistle.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Gamez (Dummett, 55), Mbemba (Gayle, 85), Clark, Yedlin, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu, Ritchie, Perez, Mitrovic
Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say it wasn’t good enough, and today was one of those.
Despite dominating possession, 66% in fact, anyone at the game would be hard pushed to say NUFC deserved much from the game.
Blackburn chased and harried every phase of play, adopting a high line from the start. Darlow wouldn’t be allowed to take short goal kicks and the attention to detail from Owen Coyle worked a treat for them with Shelvey being marked out of most of the game and not allowed to drop off to collect the ball and dictate play.
The warning signs had been there from early on, with Danny Graham seeing a tremendous headed effort equally spectacularly tipped over by the Toon keeper.
And whilst most of the over 50,000 crowd were getting refreshments at half time thinking Newcastle United were probably lucky to be at 0-0 at half time they’d also have expected better in the second half.
Whilst it was a little better, although the referee was terrible (again), it would be Mulgrew that would get the winner after 75 minutes.
After Blackburn were awarded a set piece that was blatantly not theirs the pressure would build over a couple of corners until the Blackburn number 14 was afforded enough space in the box to fire home to the delight of the travelling 1,500 and increasingly vocal Blackburn fans.
After the game Rafa cited Blackburn’s ‘physical’ approach and time wasting, although the stats at least show the Mags made more fouls that the visitors.
We could also point to a string of crazy decisions from the ref that went against us. The truth, however, is that they were more hungry and executed their game plan to perfection. All credit to them.
Things could have been different after the Blackburn goal with Ritchie once more showing his killer instinct just isn’t quite there after blasting over from 10 yards with the goal gaping. Shelvey, Atsu and Hayden would also had good chances to get something for the home side. But in spite of Newcastle’s late pressure the visitors would take away a precious 3 points.
Rafa will, we are pretty sure, go back to something more akin to his normal starting XI on Tuesday. And of course those players left out, including club captain Lascelles, were spared the blushes from today’s performance at least.
In the end, had Rafa started the Xi from last game you’d think it would have been 10 games won in a row rather than this result. For now though, we will have to start to build again next week. The good news being we're still top by 2 points despite the loss.
Roll on Tuesday we say…..