Many fans and pundits expected Newcastle’s forward line to give lowly placed Aston Villa a thrashing on Sunday. However, in the end Newcastle were relieved to emerge from the game with a point as Villa’s performance bellied their league position, chasing and harrying Newcastle’s star names all over the pitch, forcing them into mistakes and threatening to leave Tyneside with all three points. Newcastle started quite brightly, winning a succession of free kicks which gave Yohan Cabaye the opportunity to supply our forward line with chances to test Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan who supplanted Shay Given in goal for this match. Instead, Cabaye again criminally failed to deliver from his set plays and Newcastle’s inability to capitalise on their early opportunities was soon penalised by the opposition. After a shaky start Villa grew into the match and had already given Newcastle a warning sign when Darren Bent’s shot was saved by the feet of Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini had to be alert to prevent Andreas Weimann from tapping in the rebound. Newcastle failed to heed this warning and were duly punished in the 22nd minute when Ciaran Clark was allowed to run into the box unmarked after passing the ball out wide to Barry Bannan, and duly headed home.

Sometimes conceding the opening goal inspires a team to wake from their slumber, and there were a few signs of encouragement as Cisse forced Brad Guzan to save with his legs and from the resulting corner Vurnon Anita’s shot found the side netting. However, for the most part the visitors were the better team, epitomised by the energetic Australian Brad Holman who chased down every ball and made some crunching tackles which are loved by the player’s supporters but strike fear into the opposition supporters as they could cause serious injury if they are mistimed. However, football is a contact sport and it is refreshing to see a player who is giving his all for the team, instead of a laboured effort by players who are lavished with support but fail to reward their fans with a decent performance on the pitch. Indeed, Alan Pardew spoke after the game about his concerns over some players whose heads had been turned by agents during the summer. Pardew and his backroom staff will have to attend to those players during the forthcoming international break, to ensure that they are refocused and return to the pitch with renewed vigour if Newcastle are to improve on their mediocre start to this season.

Newcastle’s woes increased shortly before half-time as Danny Simpson was forced to come off with what looked like a hamstring problem. Hopefully, this injury will be a sprain rather than a tear as we are seriously short of defensive cover due to our inability or reluctance to strengthen our squad in the summer.  In the same vein, although it was nice to see our squad’s support for a fellow professional with their “Ryan Taylor Over the wall” messages on their tracksuit tops it would be far better for him to be displaying his talent on the pitch rather than sitting on the side-lines. It would be interesting to find out whether the watering of the pitches has led to more injuries or whether it is just that players are not yet fully conditioned to withstand the pressures of a match after the summer break.

Newcastle went into the break with some thinking to do and fans hoped that the second half would see them come out with renewed vigour. Instead, they looked increasingly lethargic and Aston Villa sensed an opportunity to capitalise on this malaise and double their lead. Stephen Ireland who was booed for most of the afternoon had the chance to silence his detractors but could only screw his shot wide. Aston Villa were left to rue this miss as shortly before the hour mark, Hatem Ben Arfa unleashed a shot from the edge of the area which Brad Guzan had no chance of stopping. As the Newcastle fans celebrated a fantastic goal, there was a sense that Newcastle would finally assert themselves on the game. However, it was not to be and it was Aston Villa who had the better chances to regain the lead. Villa were only thwarted by the presence of mind of Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana whose clearances prevented the visitors from securing all three points. Villa brought on Gabriel Agbonlahor in place of Andreas Weimann, to give Darren Bent a strike partner. Agbonlahor’s pace provided Newcastle’s remaining defenders with something else to think about, but Villa were unable to find the winning goal. As the game moved into extra time Yohan Cabaye had a chance to redeem himself with a free kick on the edge of the area, in a similar position from where he had scored against Manchester United last season. This time he was thwarted by Brad Guzan who managed to claw out Cabaye’s shot and Newcastle were forced to accept a draw.

This Newcastle performance was very lethargic and Pardew will have to work on his star players during the international break to ensure that they are mentally and physically ready for the next league game. Our crossing and set plays have never troubled the opposition’s defence and we must get some steel into our midfield for the trip to Everton on the 17th September if we are to get anything against a team which beat us 3-1 at the end of last season and have started fairly strongly this campaign. Hopefully, Tiote will be back and raring to go for our next fixture and we will be able to mount a more meaningful challenge against strong Merseyside opponents.


By Rachel Horne

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    • Rachel Horne

      Check your dictionary villains is spelled with two i's- the headline is a deliberate play on words. However, I will admit to the other spelling errors.

      • Ali

        Villains the English word is spelt with two i's. Villans as in Aston Villa is spelt with one.

  1. walters warrirors

    Think the enthusiasm and commitment was more the reason Newcastle players looked lethargic. Furthered by the bringing on Gabby A who strolled around Colloccini like he was a training dummy !!!!


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