Newcastle United 2-3 Leicester
125 year for this?!
A sign of the times I’m afraid that Newcastle United’s 125th birthday party was spoiled in the end by another self inflicted capitulation that leaves the Magpies perilously close to the relegation zone.
By kick off the bottom three would have all take three points but for a missed penalty from Palace leaving them with just the one, whilst both Swansea and West Ham both recorded victories.
The very fact we even need to mention this is due to the current form of the black and whites, who have been left with just 1 point form a possible 21. Frightening form!
The day promised to be so much better than this, with flags dished out to all in the home seats, forming an impressive display before kick off. Add to that more great work from Gallowgate flags together with a first very decent effort from a similar group now in the Leazes end, the build up had all the atmosphere any football fan could ask for.
On the pitch things looked to be going the right way too at last when, after another bright start, Newcastle took an early lead following great work from first Murphy with a delightful through ball, Gayle to find the cut back, leaving Joselu with the easiest of jobs to slam home.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo, Ritchie (Atsu, 64), Hayden, Merino, Murphy (Perez, 71), Joselu (Mitrovic, 88), Gayle
The shame would be that Newcastle couldn’t capitalise on yet another early lead despite great chances for Murphy and more significantly Gayle who fired wide from close range.
Those misses would prove costly.
Leicester have resembled more of their title winning selves in recent weeks. And whilst we’re not suggesting for a second they are playing with quite the same clinical nature, their big name players in Vardy and more particularly Mahrez have started to click into gear.
Likewise they have had a shape and pattern of play that has been more recognisable in recent weeks, moving the ball quickly forward and happier to concede possession much as the did in that title winning season with on 43% across the whole campaign (graphic from BBC).
Interesting perhaps that Leicester dominated this one after Newcastle’s goal and early chances. The Magpies would enjoy just 38% of the play with wave after wave of Foxes attacks having to be dealt with.
This is perhaps the biggest shame as they really didn’t look that great in front of their own goal when they have to defend.
No matter, their forward play would be enough to put Newcastle to the sword.
First Mahrez with the equaliser. Newcastle United’s midfield looked a couple of yards off the pace all game, perhaps due to a lack of match fitness for both Hayden, brilliant last season, and Merino, returning from injury. And when Mahrez picked the ball up well outside the Newcastle area the home side would only have themselves to blame for allowing the Algerian time to move the ball to his left foot and approach the 18 yard box before firing home from distance. Could Darlow have done more? He looked like he had lead in his boots in real time at the game. 1-1.
Newcastle at least saw this one through to half time. But when Gray, who was a contend danger, doubled the visitors goal tally on 60 minutes everyone in the ground had that sinking feeling once more.
But with hopes and time fading Newcastle did react this time, finally seeming to realise they had to press if they were to get anything form this game. And when Gayle turned neatly in the Leicester box to fire home with his left from 10 yards it looked like Newcastle had salvaged a point with 15 minutes to go.
The home side now sensed that perhaps there was more than a point available on this historic day. Chances would come and go however, Gayle again coming close with a shot dragged just wide.
Then the sucker punch. Leicester, as they do, broke with just 4 minutes left on the clock. And after Lejeune had seemingly dealt with the danger the ball would squirm out to the left of the box and back into Vardy’s possession. His centre looked a certain tap in with Darlow stranded, only to Perez, desperately and commendably tracking back, doing the job for him by hooking the ball into his own net when trying to clear.
Some game management from those in blue would see 5 minutes of injury time come and go. And at the final whistle disappointment once more for Rafa and his boys.
1 point from a possible 21 does not make good reading. Something needs to happen soon or this could get messy!