The latest big game for Newcastle United came in the form of an away fixture to an Ipswich side all but safe from relegation and with nothing really to play for with just four games left.
For Newcastle it was a chance to put the disappointment of a last gasp equaliser from Leeds in the Good Friday game behind us and stretch our lead to 11 points over Huddersfield due to their late kick off.
The knowledge before the game that 2 wins, a draw and a loss would be enough to see the Mags up should have been enough to give the lads all the incentive they needed. All it did was seem to add to the nerves in another horrible display.
To get the positive result he was looking for Rafa calling in Ipswich old boy Murphy to the starting line up in place of Mitrovic after his decent display against Leeds. There would also be a welcome starting place for a fit again Yedlin as well as for Hanley, Atsu and Diame in place of Anita, Mbemba, Gouffran and Perez respectively.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin (Gamez, 78), Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett, Ritchie (Mitrovic, 79), Shelvey, Hayden (Gouffran, 61), Atsu, Diame, Murphy
Having not beaten Newcastle for 16 years the hosts could at least play with some freedom given their position in the league. Something would have to give though, as Newcastle’s last 10 Monday games had all ended in defeat for the Mags.
The game started at a pretty frantic pace with both sides looking to attack at pace. Newcastle looked a little nervy in those early exchanges with a loose header back towards goal from Shelvey almost causing some issues inside the first 10 minutes.
Newcastle would then have referee Tim Robinson to thank for the score staying at 0-0, as the ref would adjudge there to have been holding on Lascelles as an Ipswich free kick would evade everyone to find its way into Darlow’s goal on 12 minutes.
Newcastle would then have a bit of joy themselves down the left first form Dummett and then Hayden but both crosses would not find a man in the middle.
On 19 minutes Dummett of all people would come as close as anyone had in a black and white shirt to breaking the deadlock with a drive from fully 30 yards following a cleared Shelvey corner. The strike flying 4 or 5 yards wide. Shelvey would be next to have a go but his tame effort would bobble straight through to Bialkowski.
The game would move past the 30 minute mark without either keeper having anything in the way of a significant save to make. That at least would change a little just after the half hour when another Shelvey effort, this time from another cleared Newcastle cleared corner, as the Ipswich stopper would have to get down well to take another long range effort.
Little in the way of clear cut chances then at either end.
On 40 minutes Newcastle had THE glorious chance of the first half. A lovely turn to loose his man from Dummett of all people on the left allowed his the space to whip in a delicious ball into the Ipswich box only for Ritchie to head a clear cut chance wide. What a miss.
Then the sucker punch. Ritchie now caught in posession on 42 minutes would allow Tom Lawrence to race clear and feed Freddy Sears on the left who’d have time and room to slam home.
The second half would be more of the same with Ipswich coming more and more into the game with Newcastle looking more and more nervy.
With an hour gone though Newcastle would somehow get back into the game. A wonderful ball up the line from Dummett would be kept in by Atsu who’d in turn find ex Tractor Boy Murphy who’s finished would send the travelling fans mental.
Surely this would be the turning point…
Just when you’d think Newcastle were back into the game they would find themselves behind again. Lawrence again should find Sears who’s cross would then find McGoldrick for the easiest of tap ins. The Newcastle players once more need to have a good look at themselves though as again it was poor defending that allowed Ipswich the chance.
Newcastle now had no alternative but to throw players forward with Ipswich happy to hit the visitors on the break. And with 9 minutes left Rafa would throw on his last options with Mitrovic on for Ritchie, with Gamez and Gouffran already thrown into the action.
Next it would be McGoldrick again to test Darlow. This time what looked like an intended cross would find itself heading under the bar only for Darlow to backtrack and tip over the bar.
For Newcastle it was now a case of ‘chuck it up to the bid men’ but with little joy.
A tame header from Hanley following a Shelvey corner would be the last effort on goal Newcastle would muster, even with 5 minutes of injury time.
Not so of Ipswich when, after Dummett failed to clear an injury time attack, Pitman would cross for Hugs who’s thunderous volley would be smashed past Darlow.
The Monday run goes on, and the prospect of whether we will even have MNF starting to become a real worry.
With Brighton winning their home game against Wigan today they become the first team promoted to the Premier League this season (baring some kind of crazy GD swing). And with the gap between Newcastle and Brighton now at 7 points they have the title all but nailed. Whilst the title itself would have been a nice thing to celebrate of course for NUFC, the main prize has always been to get back to the Prem. Today the nerves kicked in and it’s just one point from three games now.
Newcastle fans not making the trip to the South East will now need a few more beers before settling down to watch Derby v Huddersfield knowing that, should Huddersfield win they would close the gap to just 5 points and still have a game in hand.
It’s a real worry!