Saturday afternoon was one to forget for the Newcastle defence as two lapses in concentration cost the team 3 points that would of put them into 5th place, before the North London derby yesterday. One positive that can be taken from our league position is that despite a victory for Arsenal over Tottenham at the Emirates, Newcastle will still be only 3 points off a Champions League place and remain in contention going into the final 12 games of the season.
The problem from a fans’ perspective with Saturday’s result is that when you see your team leading two-nil at the half time break, at home you expect them to increase that advantage in the second half. The first goal for Wolves came from Wayne Hennessey’s long kick out that Kevin Doyle controlled without any pressure, only for Matt Jarvis to pick that ball up and score via a deflection off Danny Simpson. While Simpson could do nothing about the deflection, as any defender worth there salt will always try to get their body in front of shots toward Tim Krul’s goal, the problem is that there was no pressure on Doyle, from either the defence or the midfield duo of Tiote and Cabaye. In our recent fixtures the defence have been beaten by pace in behind, so was this a case of the back four being too deep to counter this or should one of our central midfielders have been tight enough to make a challenge?
The Newcastle defence have been caused problems all season by set pieces and again this was the case yesterday. Jamie O’Hara curling a cross in from the right flank that wasn’t cleared by Newcastle’s defence, with Mike Williamson not being close enough or making enough of a challenge to prevent Doyle scoring the equalising goal. The substitution just before the free kick was taken might have been better being delayed as this can often cause a loss of concentration and it was the case as Newcastle lost a poor second goal.
Since the loss of Steven Taylor in the Chelsea game Newcastle have conceded 23 goals in their last 12 games, which shows how much we are missing his presence in the back line. The defence has looked low on confidence in recent weeks and the January transfer window was the perfect opportunity to rectify that problem. We all know how the Adrian Mariappa saga dragged on over the final few days of the transfer window, but whether he was the right player to bring in or not we should not of had all of our eggs in one basket. The failure to bring a replacement to cover the injury of Steven Taylor could prove to be a defining factor in how the season pans out.
If the defensive frailties continue to undermine the second half of the season then it will be hard to compete for 5th place and a European spot. On the other hand, if the defence can get their confidence back then anything is possible with the attacking players available to Alan Pardew. This next game against Sunderland is the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways and do the double over the old enemy.