Unlucky Morecambe lose in their David-Goliath tie

Posted by Marc Duffy

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesNewcastle needed several key saves from Rob Elliot, left.

As soon as the Morecambe-Newcastle tie came out of the hat in the Capital One Cup draw, Sky TV earmarked it as a must-screen. Sports fans love a good underdog matchup -- especially one that could see the Premier League big boys humbled by a team who finished three leagues and 68 places below them last season.

And as it happens, Morecambe could have won at home Wednesday. They were unlucky to lose, 2-0.

All of the elements were there for an upset -- Newcastle's form has been terrible and Alan Pardew's domestic cup record going into the game included three losses to lower-league sides.

-Pardew: Cabaye may not be sold

Pardew himself didn't inspire confidence. His pre-match interviews included head scratching statements such as. . .

"There's great potential for them in that it could be a shock."

And . . ."If it comes down to just a physical game, we will lose."

He also decided to have a dig at some of the players he decided to draft in for this game -- "I thought last year some of their performances didn't match up with their pricetags."

With all of this in mind I was worried.

Instead of picking a 'first XI' Pardew opted to drop eight of the players who started against West Ham on Saturday.

Morecambe were by far the better side in the first half. Twenty minutes in they were unlucky not to be ahead after two goal-line clearances by Newcastle's Dan Gosling and another great chance saved by Rob Elliot. The Morecambe fans were loving it.

"Premier League? You're having a laugh."


Elliot was by far the busier keeper in a half of football that was a perfect representation of Newcastle's past 12 months under Pardew -- no effective game plan, apparently no formation (I think it was supposed to be his forever doomed 4-2-3-1, but at times the players looked uncertain) and players looking incapable of controlling even the most simple of passes.

Haris Vuckic was the first of the starters to be replaced -- Shola Ameobi came on for him at the half. I felt genuinely sorry for Vuckic, who has only just returned from a year on the sidelines with a knee injury -- Pardew's comments about players proving themselves and the shoddy tactics didn't give him much of a chance and he was totally ineffective.

Shola's first contribution was to run clean through on goal only to shoot way over the crossbar. At that point, it was Newcastle's best chance.

With 20 minutes, remaining Pardew exercised his 'Plan B' -- or Hatem Ben Arfa as he is more commonly known. It is a common sight for Newcastle fans to see Pardew abandon the direct hoofs in the hope Hatem could win the game and in a way, he did.

With six minutes remaining, Ben Arfa found Shola with a through ball. Shola turned and shot at goal -- a shot which took a heavy deflection and found its way into the corner of the net. 1-0 Newcastle.

Ameobi Mark II (the better one, Sammy) wrapped it up in stoppage time when he too collected a Ben Arfa pass, skipped between two defenders and slotted the ball home under the keeper.

Job done, but with a few scares along the way. Next up in the Capital One Cup: Leeds United at St James' Park in round three.

Player ratings

Rob Elliot: 8--Some vital stops

Mathieu Debuchy: 6--Absolutely all over the place early on but settled and ended solidly.
Paul Dummett: 7--Solid. He delivers a good cross, too.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa: 5--Again showed why he scares me at centre half. A few Titus Bramble moments.
Curtis Good: 7--Impressive first full start for the 20-year-old Australian.

Gael Bigirimana: 6--Did OK but looked a bit rusty at times.
Dan Gosling: 7--Vital goal line clearances.
Sylvain Marveaux: 4--It was the anonymous Marveaux on show again.

Haris Vuckic: 3--Didn't do a thing. Replaced at half-time
Sammy Ameobi: 8--Worked hard and deserved his goal.
Yoan Gouffran: 3--Anonymous. Almost forgot he was playing in the second half.
Shola Ameobi: 7--Physical presence helped.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy


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