And in the master’s chambers, they gathered for the feast. They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast**
That line from an old song most us will know really well sums up a frustrating night on Tyneside for Dean Smith, his squad and the 1,200 brave souls who went to St James’s Park on Tuesday evening to see the Canaries take on a faltering Newcastle side still to pick up their first win of the season.
Ciaran Clark’s ninth-minute dismissal for hauling down Teemu Pukki as he raced through on Marvin Dubravka’s goal looked like it had offered an amazing opportunity to put away the Magpies but turned out to be one that was not exploited as a combination of resolute defending and a slow, laborious transition through the thirds saw City fail to land a glove on Newcastle when we might have expected more urgency.
How we could have done with a fit Milot Rashica or Todd Cantwell in that situation, but they were unavailable so Dean Smith had to try and find a way through with what he had on the bench. This led to the introduction of Pierre Lees-Melou for Christos Tzolis at the break followed by Dimitris Giannoulis for Brandon Williams in an attempt to give us some extra width. It was then followed by a straight swap with Adam Idah replacing the ineffectual Josh Sargent.
We’ve all seen Billy Gilmour playing basketball in his own box and although some folks query the penalty decision I don’t I’m afraid. Don’t hold your hand up like you want to answer a question in primary school in your own box and expect to get away with it Billy cos, guess what? You’ll be penalised for handball.
Tim Krul was so unlucky. He read Callum Wilson’s penalty to perfection but just couldn’t get enough on it as it clipped the bar and dropped over the line. Suddenly we were not just trying to break the Geordies down but were chasing the game.
Luckily Giannoulis provided a measured cross for that man Pukki to volley home with his less-favoured left foot and parity was restored. PLM had a decent chance to win it as he broke free but Dubravka got his angles right and his left leg diverted the ball behind for a corner. It came to nothing and that was that.
“It wasn’t until we scored our goal actually that we moved the ball with any tempo or pace. We double switched it and Teemu has scored a wonderful goal but we didn’t do enough of that after the sending off so we didn’t get enough big chances.”
Thus spoke a refreshingly honest Dean Smith, who isn’t afraid to make an early change or two and fair play to him in that respect. And several other respects too of course.
Here are two selections from my post-match inbox:
*That was an accident waiting to happen and our record of no premiership wins when playing on a Tuesday continues. It’s now 15 in total. We only came to life once they scored and replacing Tzolis with PLM at halftime added nothing to our attack but Dimi replacing Williams gave us some pace up front* – Alex B.
*Hi Marty. 80 minutes against 10 men. Clueless. To go one down was careless, the response to that slow . After Pukki scored we had a go. Should have had a go before Pukki scored* – Bernie O.
But on reflection was the result really that bad?
We remain four games unbeaten, with eight points from 12. We’re still very much in touch with the clubs immediately above us although we have got a couple of *difficult* games coming up as in Spurs away and a seemingly rejuvenated Man U at home.
Rashica and Mathias Normann already look like key players and I understand the former travelled with the squad on Tuesday so let’s hope his groin strain is of the very minor variety. Normann we should know more about later this week.
And as a couple of jokers suggested: *Would we have lost that under Daniel Farke?*
I can’t help but laugh at how a couple of the nationals picked up on Auntie Delia being pictured apparently fast asleep in the stands but Newcastle is a long way to go when you’re 80
**And, as if you didn’t recognise the lyrics already, this is worth watching just for the crazed look on Joe Walsh’s face!