Gutless Newcastle humiliated in derby

Posted by Marc Duffy

Newcastle v Sunderland altercationPA PhotosNewcastle and Sunderland have had contrasting fortunes this summer.

I asked a question on Friday about what a combined North East XI would look like if made up from the players available for Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby. Facebook and Twitter responses from Newcastle and Sunderland supporters agreed that nine if not ten of that 'dream' team would come from Tyneside. Sunderland fans argued that Danny Rose would be included (I agreed) and some argued that Simon Mignolet would make it in ahead of Tim Krul - I disagreed there but acknowledge its a close call.

This, added to Newcastle's home record in recent derby games led the Newcastle supporters to approach this game with a rare confidence. And why not? Sunderland have been utterly abysmal of late; no wins from nine games and not a single shot on goal in Paolo Di Canio's first game as manager at Stamford Bridge last week. How then can you explain the 3-0 win for Sunderland that silenced the St James' Park faithful? The Mackems' biggest on Tyneside since 1966.

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A quick look at the Alan Pardew limited but oft-used book of excuses tells us that it was tiredness that led to such an appalling, gutless display. Tiredness because Newcastle played 90 minutes in the Europa League against Benfica on Thursday. Obviously he didn't mention the fact that before Sunday Newcastle have averaged 1.33 points per game in the league fixtures immediately following European competition, compared to only one point gained per game when they hadn't played in Europe beforehand. He also neglected to mention that four of the starting XI for the derby didn't start Thursday's game. Or that several of them haven't played a great deal of games this season for one reason or another.

I'd like to ask Pardew if it is tiredness that has stopped Newcastle from scoring a single goal from a corner for 18 months. Not one goal from a corner kick since October 2011. Newcastle's pathetic corner kick routines rarely even come close to producing anything.

Perhaps he could enlighten us as to whether tiredness is the reason behind Newcastle winning a single Premier League away game in over eleven months? The worst away record in England.

Maybe it was tiredness that forced Pardew to play Papiss Cisse out on the wing for such a large part of the season? Does tiredness make his team hoof the ball long as often as possible? Play Moussa Sissoko, a dominant central midfielder, up front or wide left? Play Jonas Gutierrez at left-back (or usually anywhere Pardew can fit him) whilst an actual left-back sits on the bench?

Personally I am seriously tiring of Pardew's excuses.

Sunderland won Sunday's game because their new manager managed to hit home to them how absolutely vital this game was. Not only was local pride at stake, both teams are fighting for their Premier League future too. From the first whistle Sunderland looked the team who wanted it most.

Many will point to the disallowed Papiss Cisse goal at 0-1 as a turning point. There is no doubt that this was another pathetic example of Premier League officials' deficiencies but there had been a lot of football played before that, in which Newcastle were second best to almost every ball and every challenge.

Would Newcastle have gone on to win the game if the goal had not counted? We will never know. But what we do know is that every time Sunderland broke forward they looked likely to score. The Newcastle United left midfielder, Gutierrez, who has played through a terrible season and started this one out of position at left-back had a nightmare. Who'd have thought it?

In summary, this game perfectly encapsulated the pathetic season Newcastle United supporters have had to sit and watch. Players out of position, questionable tactics (I'd question what the tactics were - it looked like the early game plan was to pass the ball to Sylvain Marveaux and see if he could produce some magic) and 'super fans' who won't have a word said against the manager or his players despite seeing things with their own eyes. Everything was laid out bare and Newcastle were pathetic in their most important game of all.

There may be even bigger games ahead. If Wigan somehow win their two games in hand, Newcastle will sit only two points above the relegation zone with home games against Liverpool and Arsenal to come, as well as away games against West Brom, West Ham and QPR. With one away win all season and a very poor record of seven home defeats, Newcastle need to improve quickly.

Newcastle will probably have just enough to stay up, but do I trust Pardew as the man to take the club forward next season? No.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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