Troubled Toon are not dead yet
Another home game, another rollercoaster ride, another dissapointing but inevitable outcome. Contenders one minute, cannon-fodder the next. Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong.
The way events unfolded at St James on Saturday, you could be forgiven for writing off our survival hopes. But don't: there's still all to play for.
For many though, Saturday was a crushing dissapointment too far. As Arsenal went two up, the St James' faithful left in their droves. Sick of away fans cheering every pass less than ten minutes after Martin's leveller. Sick of seeing more hopes evaporate. Sick of this sorry excuse for a 'big' football club.
Hughton didn't help our cause. Substitutions were unimaginative. Bassong's withdrawal presented the perfect opportunity to turn a positive into a negative and bring on Jonas.
Then Ryan Taylor - who was having a 'mare' on the right wing - could have moved to right back with the other Taylor taking Bassong's place. Or Owen could have been introduced, with Lovenkrands taking the right wing role in place of Taylor.
Half-time presented another chance to introduce Owen or Jonas to shake things up, but no. Then to cap it all, Hughton chooses Shola Ameobi to try and turn around a two goal deficit. Nice one Chris.
Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For 60 minutes we matched a resurgent Arsenal and gave them a run for their money. With a near full squad, there's no reason why we can't do better against Chelsea.
The key though is belief. How much belief have the players lost since Saturday? Heads were so low at 3-1 that a comeback was unthinkable. How much will remain in tact after Chelsea if we're still in the bottom three?
However the bottom line is that the games against Stoke, Pompey, Boro and Spurs will make or break the season, not Arsenal, or Chelsea in a fortnight's time.
The players need to keep their heads, stand up and be counted and believe in themselves. A speedy return for Bassong and Joey Barton wouldn't go amiss either.
Don't underestimate the Joey Barton factor. His pace and energy in midfield has been sorely missed. He won't be short of passion, belief and commitment when he returns and it's contagious.
As for you Chris Hughton, there's a lot to be said for picking your best players....
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