Blues 0 - Newcastle 2

Last updated : 25 August 2003 By Richard Barker

Goals from Nolberto Solano and Shola Ameobi settled the contest which Blues really and truly never looked like getting anything out of.

The major selection poser for Steve Bruce prior to the game was who to replace the injured Martin Grainger with. With the only other recognised left back at the club, in Tommy Williams, unable to be recalled from his season long loan at QPR, Bruce was left with a dilemma, and opted for young Darren Carter - pitched in at the deep end against one of the best right wingers in world football in Solano. The rest of the team was as one has come to expect of late.

Blues started slowly again, in much the same style as they did at Middlesbrough, and were being comprehensively outplayed by the visitors for whom Solano, Kieron Dyer and Lomana Tresor Lua-Lua were constant threats. Toon skipper Alan Shearer went close before Blues began to get themselves back into the match, with Paul Devlin testing Shay Given with a fierce free-kick and rebound effort before again coming close with a magnificent 40 yard effort with the outside of his right foot.

However, after 33 minutes, Newcastle took the lead following a move that fully streched the Blues defence. From the left, the disappointing Laurent Robert played the ball infield to Shearer, who layed the ball off to Solano who hit a fierce low drive inside Nico Vaesen's left hand post.
It was probably a deserved lead, and one which lasted until half-time.

Blues came out in the second half all guns blazing, but struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. As opposed to the first half 'long ball' tactic all too often employed by Blues, the defence and midfield looked to utilise Devlin's pace wide against Aaron Hughes as well as getting the ball in to Stern John's and Clinton Morrison's feet, instead of banging long balls at their heads.

Blues threw on Jovan Kirovski, Geoff Horsfield and Darryl Powell as they searched for an equaliser, but Newcastle's defence was stubborn and unyielding. At least Horsfield gave the likes of Nicos Dabizas and Andy O'Brien something to think about after the rather lightweight performance of Morrison. It appeared, following Blues' sustained pressure, that if another goal were to come, it would only be at one end. Such an assumption proved incorrect however in injury time, when Newcastle settled the game. As Blues piled forward, the ball broke to Shearer, who unselfishly played in substitute Ameobi, who's inital effort was well saved at his feet by Vaesen. However, Vaesen was unlucky as the ball bounced back off Ameobi and into the back of the net. It was a shame for Vaesen, who had performed as well as he has done since promotion.

Two points arose from today's disappointing showing. One is that we cannot afford to start slowly and surrender possession to good teams early on in games, or else we will forever be chasing them. It's no good giving a team a headstart and trying to claw yourself back onto a level pegging in the last 20-30 minutes - the tempo has to be there from the off. Also, as much as he may be derided in certain quarters, we are going to miss Martin Grainger. He may not tear up any trees with his performances, but at least having a natural left back playing left back offers some balance. It's my belief that when Steve Vickers returns to full fitness, he will slot in alongside Darren Purse (now suspended following a stupid show of petulance) with Kenny Cunningham moving to right back and Jeff Kenna to left back.

All in all a disappointing result and equally disappointing performance. Following the euphoria of Anfield and that win against Villa, Blues must get back to basics, and start competing with these teams again. With games coming up against clubs who may well struggle with us, it is imperative that we start to pick up points and more importantly, start to play from kick-off - not from the 60 minute mark when we're already one or two goals down.


Vaesen - Played well
Kenna - Mixed
Carter - Struggled, but did his best
Purse - Incredibly stupid booking
Cunningham - Quietly effective yet again - handled Shearer well
Devlin - Looked dangerous at times
Johnson - Quiet
Cisse - Strong, but met his match in Speed
Savage - Tired towards the end
Morrison - Poor
John - Caused a few problems

Kirovski - A few too many attempted flicks
Horsfield - Gave their defence something to think about
Powell - Got stuck in