From ruthless to toothless
In a week when Mike Ashley demonstrated his ruthless business acumen by selling Andy Carroll, Newcastle United paid the price for being ultimately toothless on a fruitless visit to the capital.
That the winner came from former Magpie Damien Duff and that his celebrations involved much nauseating badge-kissing and angry outbursts, made the result that little bit more ironic.
But at the other end, another former United player Aaron Hughes had a fairly easy ride with none of the four Newcastle strikers on display giving him or his fellow defenders much to think about.
A tight and fairly scrappy fair was more gritty than pretty, and the home side were probably about value for their three points after Duff's winner just after the hour, given that the away side barely registered a shot on goal. But for some wayward shooting on their part and the good form of Harper, it could have been worse.
A number of jittery performance, particularly the hapless Willamson and some half-hearted endeavour (see most of the team) were enough to help tip the edge in favour of Fulham. Although it was the usually consistent Enrique arguably at fault for the goal, not getting the right side of a counter attacking Duff.
Alan Pardew has a task on his hands, especially now Shola Ameobi will be out for a number of weeks with a fractured cheekbone. The direct game which has served so well in recent months, is less effective without Andy Carroll, or his understudy Ameobi, playing the pivotal role of target man. The ball just doesn't stick to Best, Lovenkrands or Ranger enough.
He spoke in his post-match interview about changing the game plan to suit the forwards he has available. Which seems like an obvious solution but what are the options? We have 5 midfielders on the injury list and a group of academy kids as green as the St James' turf. For all of that confidence, the options aren't exactly obvious.
It takes goals to gain points in this game, it's very simple. We have eight goals between our remaining fit senior strikers and there are still some difficult challenges ahead between us and safety. Pardew however, has apparently seen enough to give him the confidence to do without Carroll, given his quotes attributed during Carroll's absence through injury. It would seem recent games have flattered to deceive. I'm not sure the supporters share that optimism, particularly against tougher defences than West Ham. Arsenal on Saturday anyone?
Harper 7, Simpson 6, Williamson 4, Coloccini 6, Jose Enrique 6, Barton 6, Nolan 5, Guthrie 5, Gutierrez 5, Best (Lovenkrands 4), Ameobi 5(Ranger 5).
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