After a poor away performance against Reading, where Newcastle were fortunate to rescue a point, a home Europa league tie against Bordeaux, a team who were undefeated in 17 matches looked like a very difficult fixture, especially as it came directly before the Premier League visit of Manchester United too St James’ Park. However, the pre-match hype surrounding our French visitors proved to be mostly hot air as they failed to impress on a chilly autumn night. It has to be said that Bordeaux had failed to score, let alone win in their previous four visits to these shores, notching up defeats to Celtic, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Aston Villa in the process. Despite these previous failures, the current Bordeaux team have had an impressive start to their domestic season, unbeaten in seven matches including a draw at the big spenders PSG and a 2-0 win over Lyon in their last outing. Indeed Bordeaux started this match well, and created a very good chance in the sixth minute when Jaroslav Plasil supplied a cross for Ludovic Obraniak who failed to convert his close range header. After this opportunity Bordeaux had a series of long range efforts which were on target but failed to trouble Rob Elliot.

Newcastle had an early chance of their own when Yohan Cabaye struck an effort just wide of the left hand upright in the opening few minutes of the game. However, both sides were testing each other out in the first 10 minutes of the match. In the 12th minute Newcastle looked to have created their first real opening when Shola Amoebi was felled by Bordeaux’s Brazilian defender Henrique on the edge of the area. Henrique, who was booked for the challenge, belied his Brazilian heritage by looking outclassed throughout the game and was later to have an even more significant part to play in the outcome of this match. From the resulting free kick, Cabaye asserted his seniority over Shane Ferguson and unleashed a shot from the corner of the penalty area which hit the side netting. However, Newcastle did not have long to wait for a better chance to score as in the 15th minute Gabriel Obertan was unleashed down the left hand wing. Obertan jinxed past a few defenders before crossing to Shola Ameobi who was able to tap in and open the scoring. Obertan enjoyed one of his better nights in a Newcastle shirt, combining a high work rate with some fine runs down the wing. Maybe he was spurred on by being up against a former team, which could bode well for Sunday’s visit of his former employer’s Manchester United if he is selected.

The middle section of the first half saw Bordeaux try to get back into the match as they worked their way into Newcastle’s half and gained a few decent positions from which Newcastle were forced to concede a couple of corners. However, their execution from the resultant corners was poor and their only other effort was a 35 yard strike which Rob Elliot was able to parry to safety.

The only other notable piece of action in the opening 38 minutes was when Cheick Tiote crumpled to the floor holding his ankle after an innocuous looking challenge.  Newcastle fans feared the worst as Tiote is not a player who goes down easily and he looked in some discomfort as the medics attended him. Fortunately, after a squirt of magic spray he was able to continue and he played his typically no nonsense midfield role which we have missed during his recent absence with a calf injury. His performance during the visit of Manchester United will be critical to our chances of success against their fast attacking midfielders.

Our first half performance was enhanced in the 39th minute when the aforementioned Henrique scored a catastrophic own goal, volleying Danny Simpson’s cross past his own keeper, in a display of miscommunication which previous Newcastle teams have suffered from. Last night however, an opponent’s ineptitude gave us a comfortable cushion at the half time interval.

A two-nil score line at the break always gives the opposition a chance, as an early goal for them would give them ample opportunity to salvage something from the game. However, after the break Newcastle were able to increase their lead as Papiss Cisse latched onto Shane Ferguson’s cross and managed to volley past Cedric Carasso into the bottom corner. Cisse was perhaps fortunate to double his goal tally for the season as he appeared to be a fraction offside when the cross was delivered and his effort seemed to go in off his shin. However, the goal was allowed to stand and his ability to convert this chance may turn his season around and enable him to emulate last season’s campaign where he seemed destined to score in every game.

After the third goal the game drifted into a training session for Newcastle who were able to indulge in a period of keep ball as Bordeaux seemed unable to close our players down and were devoid of any ideas as to how to create any way back into the match. Apart from the introduction of David Bellion, whose previous association with Sunderland was not forgotten by the Newcastle faithful, the fans were not given much to do. Indeed, Bellion was the instigator of Bordeaux’s only real effort on goal as he proved that his pace had not deserted him as he raced through on goal. Unfortunately for him, his scoring record has not improved either as he was denied by Steve Harper’s outstretched foot. Harper was a second half replacement for Rob Elliot, whose injury leaves us very vulnerable on the goalkeeping front as Tim Krul’s elbow injury has not yet healed, leaving us with only untested 19 year old Jak Alnwick available as cover for Steve Harper for Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Manchester United. Hopefully, Tim and Rob’s injuries will clear up during the forthcoming international break as we do not want to have a goalkeeping crisis as well as a defensive injury problem.  Although, last night we were fairly sound at the back, benefitting from the return of Danny Simpson, our reliance on the injury prone Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini as centre halves is worrying if we are to compete successfully on both the domestic and European fronts.

Finally, a tribute must be paid to the young, up and coming Shane Ferguson whose performances on the wing continue to draw well deserved praise from the fans. His pace and crossing ability are in stark contrast to Jonas Gutierrez whose dogged determination and ability to hold the ball up does not make up for his inability to fashion many chances or score enough goals from promising positions. Ferguson will undoubtedly benefit from experiences such as last night, and it is good the Pardew is recognising his ability and giving him an opportunity to show what he can do. However, if senior players like Gutierrez continue to stand in his way he may have to look elsewhere if he is to gain regular playing experience. This would be very unhealthy for our long term plans and hopefully Pardew will be able to incorporate Shane into the senior squad alongside Jonas.

Last night was one of our better performances this season. However, the true test of our potential this season will be unwrapped with the visit of Manchester United which I await with trepidation as the opposition have made it clear in the press that they are looking to avenge last season’s 3-0 win and a vengeful Manchester United is a dangerous beast.

By Rachel Horne