Yes Harry, we were that close. NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Surely most of the reaction you have read to Saturday's draw against Tottenham Hotspur was that of frustration. In the past two weeks we've given up four points in stoppage time. In the past two weeks we've had teams that are, let's face it, better than us, right where we wanted them into the waning minutes, only to have outright victory snatched from us. You've more than likely read reactive nervousness that these last to late give-ins might be signs of a big problem on Tyneside. You may have read all that. If you have I advise a dose of Reasonable Reaction Wednesday.
It's not fiction that we've had four points snatched away from us in stoppage time of the last two matches. It's also true that those are tough pills to swallow. However a reasonable look at our play in both games leaves very little to complain about. Against the Mackems we played much better than a team that, at least on paper and in the table, is better than us. This week we hung tough for 90+ minutes with a team that is, on paper, on the pitch, and in the table, better than us. Sure it hurts to lose two points in stoppage time of all places, and sure it hurts even more to have it happen two weeks in a row, but the bigger picture says that in the last four games we've eight points and we currently sit 8th in the table.
Let me put it another way. If the Mackems had offered a draw before kickoff, the fan in me would have said, 'Stick it! We want you to suffer.' But, the football mind in me would have said, 'Yes please, I'll take the point with a smile on my face.' The same goes for the Tottenham match except I would have told the fan in me to shut the hell up. Eight out of ten days that team buries us, I'd have taken the point in a second were it offered. That's why they play the games I guess.
So, all that said, how'd we do last Saturday? My prediction was, once again turned on its ear. Puncher's chance my foot, Newcastle played the long con. We relied heavily on astute defense, which delivered. We bode our time for the right opportunities, and it paid off. In the end we didn't lead in any statistical category except fouls, but when stoppage came we were up 1-0 weren't we. Against the best clubs in the league you have to play that kind of football though. You have to keep a bend-don't-break attitude, and our lads did that just marvelously. I surely wish they could have bent for just a few more minutes, but hey, for a team whose goal is avoiding relegation I think you can't be too disappointed in the last two weeks. And if you look at the last four weeks, heck, I'm downright pleased.
Danny Guthrie had another strong showing. The only time I found myself complaining of him was when he was crossing the ball, or I should say, attempting to cross the ball. Otherwise he made a good showing of it. He had good control, passed well and played passably on defence.
A quick note on James Perch: he looks much much better in midfield than he does playing back.
Kevin Nolan was again suspiciously absent. Perhaps it's just that he's so much better with Andy Carroll on the pitch, but I've been finding him sort of ordinary of late. No mistakes from him or anything, just seems to not have the sort of influence he normally does.
I hope Nile Ranger can get out of Pardew's dog house, because he came on again late and gave Tottenham fits. I will say that he should have finished that one that he dribbled round the RCB, but he looks better and better out there. I noticed in the Cartilage Free Captain game thread that even Tottenham fans were noticing his skill level. They probably just want to buy him though....
Fabricio Coloccini. The last two games have really shown what this man is capable of. And on Saturday he made a play that any striker in the league should be jealous of. And his celebrations are always pure passion. I wan't curly hair too.
I'm starting to say too often of Jonás Gutiérrez that he touched the ball one time too many times. I find myself yelling for him to shoot or pass only to watch him make one more touch and cul-de-sac himself, or be dispossessed entirely. I've said it before, Bad Jonas = Bad Enrique.
Man of the Match: Fab Coloccini, could it be anyone else?