NEWCASTLE United entertain Premier League leaders Liverpool tomorrow in the midst of a defensive crisis, and manager Joe Kinnear believes referee Mike Dean should take his share of the blame.
The Magpies lost 2-1 at Wigan Athletic yesterday, but the damage extended way beyond the three points dropped. José Enrique was injured in the warm-up, and Habib Beye and Mark Viduka during the game before Sebastien Bassong was sent off by Wirral official Dean. All four look set to miss tomorrow’s game, and a number of others have little time to shake off the knocks they picked up.
Kinnear was scathing about the decision to send off Bassong – prompting an immediate suspension – and extremely unhappy with the reckless tackle from Lee Cattermole which saw Beye rushed to hospital. Stockton-born Cattermole was booked completing an unfortunate double, having produced the challenge in November’s clash between the sides which ruled Joey Barton out of first-team football until March.
These were not Kinnear’s only gripes with Dean, who booked substitute Andy Carroll for diving in the penalty area six minutes into added time. “The day started badly with José and got worse from there,” he said.
“He got injured in the warm up and we had to make a quick decision and change formation. We don’t have any other left-backs available so it was a case of dropping Charlie (N’Zogbia) back and bringing Mark Viduka on.
“It’s not looking good for Liverpool at all. There’s about four or five players who were playing at Wigan who will struggle to play on Sunday. In total I think we have about eight first-teamers injured now.” Viduka has torn his groin, Enrique’s is a calf injury.
Bassong was sent off for pulling Emile Heskey’s shirt in the penalty area, though the defender had been trying to swap shirts long before they got into it. Amr Zaki put the Latics 2-0 ahead from the resulting spot kick.
“Heskey was offside to start with, but I’m in enough trouble with referees that I don’t really want to open my mouth and tell the truth,” said Kinnear. “Let’s just say I can’t find the words to express his performance.
“If he gives a penalty for Heskey, he has to give one for Andy Carroll. Heskey’s done well, he’s held him off, lost his balance and then thrown himself to the floor. He’s 6ft 3in, for Christ’s sake – but the referee fell for it.
“Then at the other end, Andy Carroll has been hacked down from the back. It’s clear-cut, even (Wigan manager) Steve Bruce has said exactly the same, but the referee has given nothing. I think that summed up his performance.”
Of Cattermole’s tackle, he added: “If I was being kind I would call it a reckless challenge. It was exactly the same challenge he made against Joey Barton.
“(Beye) went straight to hospital and they might be keeping him in (overnight).
“We know it’s a badly bruised knee but
we’re not sure whether anything’s fractured yet. He definitely has no chance of being involved on Sunday.” Despite being outplayed for most of the game, Damien Duff missed two chances to claim a point after Carroll won an earlier penalty, for a challenge by Chris Kirkland.
Goalkeeper Shay Given also criticised Dean for failing to award a third penalty of the match.
“We should have had another penalty,” he said. “Looking at the replays on TV I think it was a second (Newcastle) penalty. The referee maybe needed to be strong. We had some other chances as well, and we’re disappointed we got nothing from the game.”
The result, however, was a moral-boosting victory for Wigan boss Bruce, who admits his biggest problem now is to keep his confident team together.
Emile Heskey is a January transfer target for Liverpool while Antonio Valencia has been linked with Real Madrid.
Bruce said: “The vultures will be circling but we have done a good job turning the club around and the last thing we want is to dismantle it. But I have had no offers for any of our players.”
Taylor’s free-kick was a brilliant strike from a player who has now scored four of his six goals for Wigan against Newcastle.
Bruce said: “His deliveries from set-pieces are as good as I’ve seen. Shay Given must hate the sight of him. It is an unbelievable art he has got.”
Bruce refused to comment on Amr Zaki, who was reported to have been disciplined for returning from a break back home to Egypt two days late.
“Whatever happens in the dressing room I’ll keep in-house,” said Bruce.
“His daughter has not been well and he has had a difficult couple of months trying to settle. But today he was back to what the Premier League found exciting about him.”
THE Newcastle United Supporters Club are encouraging fans to bring flags and banners to tomorrow’s game, which they want to be an unofficial Sir Bobby Robson Day. The club are supporting the suggestion, which has the backing of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.