Hapless Toon draw 1-1 at busy Stoke
Newcastle United FC were held to a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium by a very sharp and energetic Stoke City side who will feel that given the chances they had - they should have walked away with all three points.
United began the match on a negative note with Shola Ameobi starting in place of Obafemi Martins who pulled out of the side at the last minute due to a groin injury. Alan Shearer made five changes from the match against Chelsea last week, but nothing seemed different.
Shearer started with a modified 3-5-2 formation with Ryan Taylor and Damien Duff taking up wing-back positions, with Sebastien Bassong, David Edgar and Habib Beye at the heart of the defense.
Kevin Nolan had another shambolic display, and Nicky Butt, though playing better than his usual self, was awful inside the opposition half. Added to that, Ameobi put in another infamous performance alongside Michael Owen, and one may wonder why Shearer picked the 26-year-old player so affectionately called 'The Headless Chicken'.
Former Newcastle United player Abdoulaye Faye opened the scoring for the home side in the first-half after - yes, that man Shola Ameobi had an expected lapse of concentration leaving the Senegal defender to fire a low header passed Toon keeper Steve Harper.
Ricardo Fuller was denied by Harper, and Ryan Showcross came close, with Faye also hitting the woodwork in a game which looked to drill the final nails into the Toon coffin.
Danny Guthrie was substituted in the second-half to make way for Jonas Gutierrez, and with just 19 minutes to go, Ameobi was finally taken off (rather reluctantly) by the clueless management for local lad Andy Carroll to come on.
And it would be Carroll who would save Shearer's skin with the 20-year-old heading past Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen in spectacular fashion to give the visitors hope in the 81st minute.
But Stoke held on in the end to their point, and Newcastle United stayed firmly placed in the bottom-three of the Premiership. Relegation is no longer a fear - it is every Geordie's nightmare at the moment, and with Tottenham Hotspurs coming up next week the Magpies seem to be down-and-out.
It's not a question of will mind you - its a question of ability. The current crop of players are mostly has-beens, or just plain poor. The fact that the Ameobis, and the Butts of the world are still handed first-team starts goes a long way to explain why the team is in such a state. In Butts defense however, he is getting old, and may not be as sharp as he was 10 years ago, but Ameobi is 26-years-old! He has zero wiggle-room in terms of excuses.
Kevin Nolan was useless as ever, and one wonders what has become of him. His runs were never intelligent. There were segments in the game when he was just standing around watching things unfold around him without ever assisting a fellow teammate under pressure or to instigate an attacking run. Utterly poor.
He is joined the substandard players department by another January arrival - Ryan Taylor. Playing in right-wingback position, the former Wigan Athletic utility-man was frustrating as ever to watch - considering none of his corners, crosses, or even free-kicks ever beat the first-man. For someone with such a high-reputation (supposedly) he has shocking passing and crossing ability.
Sebastien Bassong was good cover at left-back later in the game, and Damien Duff put in an honest performance, but as with Butt he lacks ability rather than heart.
David Edgar's display was truly worth mentioning as the 21-year-old Geordie gave it his all for the side, as did Habib Beye, and a very energetic Michael Owen who tracked back to midfield throughout the game to help out his teammates.
In the end, Shearer got what he deserved. Kevin Keegan had the right idea regarding Shola Ameobi. He should have been sold last summer, but Joe Kinnear and Derek Llambias' were a bit too shortsighted to realise what needed to be done.
It was also good to see young Nile Ranger on the bench, and he should have been given the opportunity one feels to at least come on for the last five minutes of the game. Look at what happened when Sir Alex Ferguson brought on his 17-year-old striker Federico Macheda against Aston Villa last week!
All in all, a poor performance from a technically unsound bunch of has-beens who should look up retirement homes, and/or a change of career because seriously, who would ever retain their services if the Toon let them go...?
Alan Shearer has heart, determination, and, tactical knowledge (maybe) but it is useless if you have substandard players who just don't have the skills or intelligence to translate what you tell them in training on to the big stage.
STOKE CITY: Sorensen; Wilkinson (Kelly, 90), Shawcross, Ab Faye, Higginbotham, Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Pugh, 80); Fuller, Beattie (Cresswell, 73). Subs: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Tonge, Sonko.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Harper; Beye, Edgar, Bassong; R Taylor, Nolan, Butt, Guthrie (Gutierrez), Duff; Ameobi (Carroll), Owen. Subs: Krul, Coloccini, Smith, Gutierrez, Ranger, Geremi.
Goals: Faye 33, Carroll 81
Bookings: Etherington 28, Bassong 41, R Taylor 48, Wilkinson 54, Fuller 75, Lawrecen 88
Referee: Chris Foy