Given that Yohan Cabaye's absence was always going to be a big miss, Newcastle United did just what you thought they'd do. They took the pitch at the Madejski Stadium feeling that their name would win the match for them.
A starting lineup gamble by Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew did not exactly pay off here in the first half. With Yohan Cabaye missing out due to a "mouth injury", Pards started a CM combo of Cheik Tiote and Gael Bigirimana... which on paper or when spoken seems like it should be mostly indestructible and strike fear in everyone on the pitch. To be fair, they performed well in their defensive duties for the most part, but the most frightening part of their performance was the fact that neither of them looked as though they cared much to possess the ball and help Newcastle build attack through the middle of the pitch.
It's perhaps not fair to single Tiote and Bigi out for sub-par play in the first half... in fact everyone on the pitch (save for Steve Harper) has looked listless at best and flat poor at times. We have gifted many chances to Reading through shaky defending, but to our benefit, they have planted a majority of them in Row Z (as Newcastle have on the few chances that we've created) and Pavel Pogrebnyak will feel harshly done by to have not put one on the board - Steve Harper saving well on a headed ball mid-way through the half and James Perch blocking brilliantly right at the halftime whistle.
When preparing for the Reading match preview i posted about 24 hours ago, I ran across what I felt was pretty reliable information regarding the status of injured Toon stars Tim Krul and Danny Simpson. This information indicated that both were to have returned to training this week and were in the frame for selection against Reading. It now looks like the picture is significantly different. Both Krul and Simpson are being ruled out for the match at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow. In the time-honored tradition of late-night American informercials: "But wait! There's more!"
Fabricio Coloccini looked to be back from his injury suffered while on international duty, playing 60 minutes against Manchester United in the [insert sponsor here] Cup on Wednesday. It seemed a logical time for him to come out of the match when he did, a gentle break-in during a match that just didn't matter much in the general scheme of things. It seems that his substitution was not scripted, however, as he is also being ruled out v. Reading. "But wait! There's more!" Althoughit is difficult to fathom, the same report (this link from the mail, but it's not the only place I've seen it) is suggesting that Yohan Cabaye may miss the match with a mouth problem. I don't really know what that means, or what kind of mouth problem would keep you out of a Premier League match... but it's out there. In light of this injury information, I am going to go ahead and put this new potential lineup out there:
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper | Perch, Williamson, S. Taylor, Santon | Ben Arfa, Tiote, Gosling*, Jonas | Cisse, Ba
*I would much rather see Amalfitano, but he seems to have fallen below Gosling in Pardew's estimation...
If Cabaye is in fact ruled out for Reading, it would be a significant dent in any hope of Newcastle achieving some measure of consistent performance in the league. While not terminal to the Mags' chances, it is far from helpful.