STOKE CITY FC 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 3
We’re Stokies....we know about these things.....Demba Ba was likely to catch up with us sooner or later. Unfortunately, he did it big style, notching a winning hat-trick for The Magpies! Hoffenheim were trying it on,pricing him,to us, at £9m,especially with his injury record. We were right to walk away, but it did make it possible for others to get him at a more realistic price, and the rest, as they say, is history. He certainly worked hard in attack and defence, took his chances from open play well, plus effortlessly converting a late penalty ,which killed off any chance of us salvaging something from the match. At the £4m price that Newcastle reputedly paid, he’s a steal!
With 19 matches played already this season, I’m of the mind that our busy schedule seems to be catching up with us too. Despite careful use of the players at our disposal and our larger squad, we are still vulnerable facing so many fixtures (in a short time frame)when key men are injured, and look decidedly disjointed when square pegs are forced to cover in round holes.
So we faced a very determined hardworking Newcastle side (enjoying, it must be said, more than an even share of the luck on the night) with an in form striker,whilst losing our captain and our left back to injury, forcing further disruptive reorganisation. Our passing generally was not good. Crucially, as with Liverpool last week, the fans were virtually silent for quite lengthy periods, as they contemplated what was happening.
Wilson went off injured after Newcastle had scored their first two goals. You had to wonder whether he was fully fit to start with, and indeed whether his mind was elsewhere on the night. On 12 minutes he was slow to react to Obertan, going down the right. The winger had all the time in the world to clip in a beautiful cross which Ba was on hand to head home. On 40 minutes, again to the right of goal Best was not picked up. He had time to juggle the ball, and scuff a shot. The ball ran across goal to the incoming Ba,who poked the ball home past Begovic’s despairing dive.
To their credit Stoke maintained pressure on the Newcastle throughout the second half, creating half chances that on another day might have gone in. Hopes were raised 15 minutes from time when Ba felled Crouch in the penalty area. Walters converted the chance, but within 6 minutes Huth was (harshly some would say) adjudged to have pushed Best in our area, with Ba registering his hat-trick from the spotkick. Effectively game over at that point.
Who played well for us? Walters ran his heart out; Wilkinson was as combative as ever; Begovic made some fine saves, and timely interventions outside his area when goals looked likely; Crouch’s hold up play and distribution was first class (although there were those in the crowd who could not see it!);Woodgate looked assured on the ball for the most part; Whelan got about the pitch well.
A worry was seeing ever present Shawcross leave the pitch, nursing what seemed to be a groin injury. Hopefully it will not prove to be serious. The threat from our wide midfielders, Pennant and Etherington, was intermittent. Both were closely marked when they had the ball, by two and sometimes three players.