Star Men

Star Men

This game was decided by a brilliant Ben Arfa goal with only a few minutes left on the clock.

But the real winners were the fans, who saw a much improved Newcastle United put Fulham on the rack in the second half, and with a bit more fortune, the score could have been more.

I have to admit, taking up my customary seat in the East Stand, I wasn’t expecting too much. Or to be more accurate, after the results against Manchester City and West Ham, I just couldn’t see us being an attacking threat and was left wondering where the goals were going to come from this season.

The lack of summer signings by our Director of Football, who he says has won every honour in the game and can pick up the phone to any manager added to the feeling of despondency. And clearly it wasn’t just me feeling this way. A crowd of 46,402 is one most teams in the English Premier League would die for – but by United’s standards it was a signal that things are not right at the club.

True, Fulham only brought their usual minibus, but that means there were corca 5,000 home seats empty – and you can’t explain that away by saying “some of the lads will still be on holiday, man”. Aye right!

I won’t go through the match chance by chance as most readers will have seen the highlights by now or read a blow by blow account on other blogs which do that sort of thing. For anyone who works shifts or whatever and somehow hasn’t had a chance to see the highlights, Workyticket is showing them over on the excellent nufcblog.org.

Let’s be clear. This was a much improved performance over the two games which had gone before. And personally, I have to say that alone took me by surprise. In the second half in particular there were long periods where we pummelled the Fulham goal creating a number of good chances.

The defence is beginning to look like a good unit, with all five players – Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa and Santon – playing well defensively, and both the full backs are having a positive effect on the overlap. Yanga-Mbiwa is a step up from Steven Taylor and seems to give us a calm, controlled, reliable performance that Steven cannot match. Coloccini was immense as usual, and if there is a better keeper than Krul around, I haven’t seen him.

Our midfield did well. Sissoko was a real bundle of energy, breaking up attacks and giving us some power going forward. Marveaux and Anita worked hard to keep the kettle boiling and Ben Arfa is getting back to the lethal weapon we know he can be – although he still needs to learn in which situations it is better to release the ball to a team-mate.

Up front Shola Ameobi put in a solid shift, but Cisse was again largely ineffective. That all changed when Loic Remy came on. On the evidence of his short stint, he looks some player!

Pace, fast feet and the ability to unlock defences seem to be the qualities he will add to the team. Indeed, it was Remy who provided the perfect cross-field pass to set up Ben Arfa for his goal.

Le Sulk Cabaye was introduced in the 66th minute and was booed by some sections of fans. I just don’t get that!

They booed a player who has given us some great performances in his time here – because he wants to go and warm the bench at Arsenal.

It was probably the same fans who cheered Loic Remy when he was warming up and when he came on. That will be the Loic Remy who couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed in London to travel to Newcastle, and chose little QPR instead?

I’ll never understand the mind-set of some of our fans!

United Manager Alan Pardew told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle:

“We showed the power we have got but haven’t had available. Suddenly we looked like we could get bags of goals. It was unbelievable in the second half we could have two or three. Fulham frustrate you. But we put more pressure on the game.”

“I’m pleased for our fans. Hatem [Ben Arfa] is such a maverick. He is difficult to manage in terms of getting a structure to the team. But he’s got exceptional talent. Remy came on and we looked like we doubled our threat.”

All in all though, a very enjoyable day from a Geordie perspective. Lets hope this is a sign of better things to come.

Wonder if our top Director of Football who “can pick up the phone to any manager” is going to sign the players we need by tomorrow night? Don’t hold your breath on that one folks!

Newcastle United: Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon, Ben Arfa, Anita (Cabaye, 66), Sissoko, Marveaux (Remy, 74), Shola Ameobi (Gouffran, 66), Cisse. Subs not used: Elliot, Dummett, Gosling, Sammy Ameobi.

Fulham: Stockdale, Riether (Briggs, 73), Hangeland, Hughes, Riise, Kacaniklic, Sidwell (Rodallega, 89), Parker, Ruiz, Berbatov, Bent (Taarabt, 83). Subs not used: Etheridge, Karagounis, Duff, Boateng.

Goals: Ben Arfa 87

Bookings: Parker 45, Riise 76, Cabaye 82, Ben Arfa 87

Referee: Chris Foy (St Helens)

Attendance: 46,402 (460 Fulham)

What do you think? As ever, comments, opinions and views welcome below.

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