Date:Sunday October 17 2010
St James' Park
An embarrassing start to the afternoon almost ended with an embarrassing defeat but ultimately ended with what was an almost embarrassing last gasp escape for Newcastle.
Having borne witness to the monstrous new Sports Direct sign on top of the Gallowgate stand opposite, Level 7 voiced their immediate disapproval with anti-Sports Direct and anti-Ashley songs. The sour atmosphere may not have directly affected the players but it was a fitting backdrop to the garbage on the pitch. Charles N'Zogbia was roundly booed throughout but in cliched fashion it was he who almost had the last laugh with two goals at the Gallowgate End.
Kevin Nolan missed out entirely with an alleged injury and as Coloccini re-entered the fray, he also took on the responsibility of the captain's armband. Leading by example, he hardly put a foot wrong, continuing his consistent start to the season. Unfortunately, his team mates let him down badly, almost to a man.
Chris Hughton opted for a popular 4-4-2 approach, recalling Lovenkrands and Carroll and dropping Routledge and Ameobi. Danny Guthrie made his return from injury on the right handside of midfield.
Playing Guthrie out of position narrowed the play far too much and cause issues all game down the right. But that can be no excuse for the false start the rest of the team made. Whether it was an attitude issue or they'd simply all been on the p*ss the night before, the first half was a shambles of the highest order.
That N'Zogbia outjumped two defenders, one of them well over 6ft, from a standing start to head his first goal, summed up the difference between the two sides early on. Wigan wanted to win the game and Newcastle Utd had just come along to make up the numbers.
That was almost the first thing N'Zogbia had done but just to show it was no fluke, he helped start and then finished his side's second goal with a thundering volley but not before Newcastle responded well and almost equalised, when Enrique broke and crossed well. Carroll probably should have done better but the keeper saved well.
With a two goal advantage, Wigan bossed the rest of the half and with rising frustration in the stands, the outcome seemed inevitable. For every poor pass Newcastle made that was intercepted, a hard working Wigan player picked up the loose ball and the visiting side toyed with their hosts.
A disbelieving Level 7 had little or no hope whatsoever of a way back into the game when discussing at half time. It seemed like a complete write-off. In fact, the general consensus being an afternoon on the drink might be a better option. And yet miraculously, it wasn't all over.
With Lovenkrands having an off day and making completely the wrong runs, the midfield compounded the issue with sloppy passing and a stunted approach and awful decision-making. Joey Barton had a frustrating afternoon throughout but remained in control. His midfield partner on the other hand spent the whole game flirting with a dismissal. Tiote's several kicks at the opposition and an apparent lean into the face of a Wigan player, could have seen him go on another day, with little room for argument.
Andy Carroll too seemed to be bearing up badly under the weight of expectation from the stands. Putting himself about as always, his touch let him down and saw him frustrated for long spells. And so inevitably it was going to have to take some changes to shake things up.
The arrival of Ameobi and Routledge did little early on to improve matters on the hour, but with twenty minutes remaining a great cross from Gutierrez on the left found Ameobi, and the substitute threw his head at it to make it 2-1.
The fact that Newcastle had equalised having played so badly, seemed almost to spell doom for the visitors. As if to suggest that it proved conclusively yet again that anything can happen in football, the first goal arriving when it seemed beyond the home side, made a second goal almost inevitable.
But the home crowd had to wait for it, literally until the death. And it seemed fitting that the only Newcastle player worthy of getting anything out of the game, should do the damage. Gutirrez's last minute corner was met by Carroll and his header towards the goal was redirected by Coloccini into the back of the net for the equaliser.
With a sheepish home crowd heading home ultimately happy with the share of the spoils, from a game that should really have been a home win on paper, there was plenty to ponder. Not least for Chris Hughton, who has big decisions to make on team selection for the next game, in particular the hapless James Perch who has cost too many points already this season to have further time to prove his doubters wrong.
Wigan fans wandered away dazedly thinking it was daylight robbery to have three points stolen in that manner and Newcastle supporters, with a spring in the step, borne out of total relief at salvaging something from the game, will wonder for a long time how their team got anything out of this game at all.
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Date:Sunday October 17 2010
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