Newcastle United started a run of fixtures that, even this early, will define next 8 month of football for all those in black and white.
How Newcastle fans would have taken a repeat of last seasons 3-1 victory at the John Smith’s Stadium to kick start their season after a depressing loss to Spurs last weekend.
After today the Magpies would entertain West Ham and Stoke with Swansea snd Brighton away interspersed around those fixtures. A result of any kind, one felt, would be vital to kick start things today.
Rafa would be forced into a number of changes today with Shelvey starting the first of a three match suspension to s needless stamp of Alli last time out, whilst Lejeune and Dummett are both now out for ‘a number of weeks’ after picking up injuries. A first competitive start for Merino in the heart of midfield then whilst Mbemba and Lascelles would be recalled in defence with Clark reverting to left back. Further forward new signing Joselu would have to be content with starting on the bench whilst there would be a surprise inclusion to Saivet as the only defensive minded player to make the 18 man squad showing just how far the squad had been stretched with Yedlin also still nursing an injury.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Manquillo, Mbemba, Lascelles, Clark, Hayden (Diame, 76), Merino, Ritchie, Perez (Murphy 80), Atsu, Gayle (Joselu, 52)
Huddersfield would make the better start despite an early sight of goal for Perez as the home side dominated the opening period looking dangerous and seeing most of the ball in the opening 15 minutes.
And the home side could well have been down to 10 men when Huddersfield’s star of last week, Mounie, seemed to stamp on Hayden with the Newcastle man already on the floor.
The first time either goal keeper was called into significant action through was the Huddersfield stopper after a fantastic curling effort from Ritchie was just tipped wide. A lovely layoff from Perez would see the Newcastle number 11’s right foot curling effort only just tipped wide when heading into the bottom corner.
Newcastle would at least finally start settling into the game although seemingly content to allow Huddersfield to have a great deal of the ball. The biggest concern for the visitors being the number of crosses they were allowing to find their way into their box given how prolific Mounie was in the air last season.
With 35 minutes gone a rare good chance for Newcastle when Atsu, breaking free on the right wing, would fail to pick our Gayle who was fleetingly unmarked at the back stick.
Just before the break the home side could have been ahead. With Newcastle finally committing a few more men forward Huddersfield would break 3 against two only to see a slight hesitation in playing Mounie through giving enough time for Mbemba, playing left back, to stretch out a leg and put the ball behind for a corner.
In to the second half and it was back to the regular pattern. Huddersfield dominating possession. Newcastle trying to stay compact and hit the hosts on the break.
It wouldn’t last long.
A lovely one-two started and finished by new boy Mooy would see the new permanent signing curl a stunner around Elliot from 18 yards out. 1-0 and a brilliant finish. Quite how he was allowed so much room would be the question.
That would be the end of Gayle’s afternoon too with the newcastle number 9 immediately getting the curly finger to be replaced by Joselu with the visitors now having it all to do.
It was starting to feel like this could be a long old season…
A great cross field ball after a free kick had initially been cleared by Huddersfield would find Manquillo in acres of space unmarked on the right of the penalty area. But his headed cross could only find the Huddersfield keeper with Joselu totally unmarked in the centre of the box.
A great run by Atsu would then set Joselu free but his toe poke would be pushed wide. From the resulting corner the ball would fall to Perez but his shot, when unmarked 6 yards out, would be volleyed over the bar. What a chance with over 20 minutes left on the clock to level things up!
Newcastle would at least be creating some chances now, although the push would mean gaps at the back with Manquillo in particular seemingly struggling to keep up with the pace of the game.
The final change of the game, with Diame already on for Hayden, would see Murphy come on for Perez with 15 minutes left and one last throw of the dice for Newcastle.
And Murphy would almost get clear of his man after 80 minutes only to see his shot blocked.
There would be not reprieve for Newcastle however as the clocked ticked through the 4 minutes of injury time without major incident.
Not the start Newcastle were looking for then. Not at all.
How is everyone feeling……