COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Before we had any sort of chance to settle and take the Geordie bite out of the game, Arteta went down in a heap from nothing more than a coming together; subsequent details reveal he is out for the rest of the season. Castillo was his replacement and the manager's reshuffle suggested we won't lose but will only win with either a bit of luck or a moment of magic.
We did continue to attack but craft and guile was replaced with percentage stuff that earned us set pieces which in turn caused some panic to the Newcastle rearguard but our finishing was either wayward or smothered by a blanket defence. For all our pressure it was the home team who created the only clear-cut chance of the game when Lovenkrands was put in one-on-one but somehow shot wide when it was easier to score.
Another blow for the Blues took place just before half-time when Nolan launched into Big Vic with a tackle that was once called 'The Reducer'. The Ref didn't hesitate in showing Red. Big Vic recovered sufficiently to return and hobble until Fellaini was readied. Seemed to me like replacing a player with a crocked leg with one with a crocked back.
Second half and the Blues played with a type of football you would expect from a now totally unbalanced team. Newcastle got behind the ball and parked the bus, the Blues with no driver or conductor ploughed balls in but to no real effect and I didn't count even one decent chance or serious shot on target all half.
With 15 to go, Saha was introduced for the tiring Gosling and Jo was sent wide left but as for telling what our formation was, well, it could have been anything or play where your legs take you. For all our pressing, we did have one moment of concern when Lescott looked up and saw nothing on and whilst figuring out what best to do he gave the ball away and the Newcastle sub had a chance but he drifted a chip over the bar.
Final whistle, the faithful sang, the players applauded them and then all left for home contemplating on a poor game and just what the Arteta injury may do to us. On reflecting, the game I was surprised at the starting line-up, especially as we have seen a couple of times under the Moyes tenure that putting a centre-back to right back doesn't really work and it didn't again today.
The substitutions baffled me also as they seemed to unbalance the team more and more as each one was made. I haven't got a Pro Licence so maybe I should be quiet but I would like to ask the manager why, when we have no creativity from midfield, didn't he put on Van der Meyde, who for whatever his faults can put over a decent cross and we did have one or two who are decent in the air.
Somehow Jags right-back, Neville wide right, playing against ten men wasn't making much sense considering we had a natural right back and natural winger on the bench. Cahill and Hibbert along with Osman and Pienaar were massive misses today but injury and suspension are part and parcel of football and can happen at anytime, for a team wanting to go to the next levels, then squad investment sufficient to see out a season's worth of football on four fronts is the obvious requirement or we will forever be known as the club and manager who do wonders on a shoestring.
The run-in for this season will once again hinge on what the manager can get out of whoever is fit and available and for the fans it will be a case of hoping the injured are back and firing soon and almost praying no-one else gets injured. Those substitutions are still bugging me as I think Moyes has done wonders in getting a cash-strapped club to where we are now in a money laden league... yet in a game like this one, I thought he could have reorganised better in the second half against ten men.
Still, he is with the players all week and a professional and I am just a curious fan... WBA next and three points should be ours.... er... shouldn't they? See you there UP THE BLUES
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