Newcastle United 2 Blues 1 .. Match Report

Last updated : 02 January 2005 By Richard Barker

An awful first half performance from Steve Bruce's men, with countless silly mistakes and general poor play saw Blues go into half-time 2-0 down, and despite a better effort in the second half, they were unable to turn things around.

Bruce opted to make one change to the team that had won at Fulham, with Stan Lazaridis returning from his rest to replace Jamie Clapham on the left-hand side of the midfield. There was also a return for Dwight Yorke to the sixteen, but he was on the bench with Clinton Morrison and Emile Heskey continuing up front.

All this also meant that Olivier Tebily continued at left-back, and this was fully exploited by Newcastle - Craig Bellamy in particular - early on. It would be harsh to blame Tebily, as it's not especially his fault, and one thing you can say about him is he always, always gives his all. However, he is a centre half, who can have a go if required at right back or maybe as a holding midfielder. There is no way he's a left back. Blues may have got away with playing him there at Fulham, as Fulham aren't very good, but this was a different proposition. Tebily can barely use his left foot, for starters. He was like a lamb to the slaughter against Bellamy today - it was actually embarrassing. You can understand playing him there if there are literally no other options, but Clapham was sat on the bench, and Lazaridis was in front of him - there's two left backs already.

Anyway, after 6 minutes Newcastle went 1-0 up, courtesy of Bellamy beating Tebily down the flank. It was already the fourth time he'd gone past Tebily, and on this occasion his well flighted cross was met with a powerful header into the back of the net by Shola Ameobi - Newcastle's lone striker in their version of the current fashionable 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation. Bellamy was on the right and Laurent Robert on the left.

Newcastle looked shaky at the back, but dangerous going forwards as the Blues defence and midfield looked all over the place. Even players you expect to be steady at the very least if not spectacular, such as Mario Melchiot, Damien Johnson and Robbie Savage, were playing poorly. Lee Bowyer twice brought decent saves out of Maik Taylor, whilst Bruce put Tebily out of his misery after just 25 minutes by bringing on Julian Gray to play wide left and dropping Lazaridis back to left back. Taylor himself was putting in another poor performance, and was saved when Matthew Upson scrambled the ball off the line to deny Ameobi after a horrendous error from the 'keeper.

Blues had a couple of half chances, with Heskey heading at Shay Given and Gray having a shot blocked, as they got themselves back into the game slightly, but the defecit was doubled just before the break. Melchiot was comfortable in possession of the ball in the right back position, before he suddenly slipped. Robert nipped in, took the ball past him and crossed for Bowyer to beat Taylor at the third attempt.

Blues were better in the second half, but it would have been difficult to have been any worse. Heskey took a knock, but seemed to be posing more problems, whilst Morrison got into the game a little more. Morrison was a bit of a disppointment, however, as he was at Fulham. Given the form he had been in, his last two displays have almost suggested that he's believing his own press a little too much, and is waiting for things to happen for him, rather than making them happen himself, which is what he had been doing by working so hard. He reverted back to his lying on the floor, whinging and moaning game a little today.

Morrison tested Given a couple of times before Heskey pulled one back after 64 minutes. Morrison held the ball up and Heskey ran to the left. Morrison laid the ball off to his strike partner who scored with a superb first-time left footed drive for the second time in 5 days to give Blues renewed hope.

Blues pushed on now, with Darren Anderton (who had come on moments before Heskey's goal) adding a new dimension to the midfield. Savage again tested Given as Heskey continued to cause problems. Blues also threw on Yorke for Kenny Cunningham in a bid to salvage things, and Anderton later went close.

As Blues pushed for an equaliser, they obviously opened up a little more at the back, and Kieron Dyer hit the bar (crossbar, not an establishment in Quayside) before Bowyer again went close. Newcastle didn't need another goal in the end though, as Blues were unable to muster an equaliser.

Two final things to note: 1) Maik Taylor appears to be getting worse and worse. His distribution now is laughable - he seemed to find Damien Johnson (he of being about 5'6" fame) with every kick - and his general goalkeeping now is littered with mistakes, mainly due to positioning and hesitancy.

2) Savage was booked for a challenge on Olivier Bernard which will now lead to a one game ban. Now, if you were being a bit of a cynic, which I am, you could develop the theory that he got his booking knowing that he'll miss the Leeds FA Cup game on January 8th and so not become cup-tied, so was Savage getting his suspension out of the way so that it won't hinder a new career with different employers? I actually think he just mistimed the challenge, and that such a conspiracy theory is wrong, but it might be worth thinking about if he does move on.

Anyway, Blues' run is over, but thankfull the four wins prior to this game had helped the league situation a lot, and meant that this game was perhaps not as important as it may have looked a few weeks ago. In saying that though, Blues don't want to start to falter after this. They need to put it out of their minds as 'one of those days' and concentrate on bouncing back against a desperately out-of-form Bolton side on tuesday.