Morecambe v Newcastle United: Mark Douglas' match analysis

An uncomfortable night for Newcastle United in Morecambe was saved by goals from brothers Sammy and Shola Ameobi

Dave Howarth/PA Wire Newcastle United's Sammy Ameobi scores against Morecambe

Just as Alan Pardew had prophesised, several Newcastle United careers came careering to a crossroads at Morecambe last night.

Thankfully for the United manager, his own was not among them.

Courtesy of a first double salvo from the Ameobi brothers, he was spared an inquisition on a night which proved uncomfortable for United without ever quite flaring up to crisis point.

Pardew’s pre-match call for his younger players to rise to the occasion was at least heeded by Ameobi junior, who capped a more encouraging night with a magnificent injury time solo effort.

However, on a night when Gael Bigirimana and Haris Vuckic struggled to make their mark, it was senior stager Shola Ameobi who turned the goal after his introduction at half-time.

How Pardew must be thankful for the veteran striker on nights like these, when his own fortunes hung by the balance.

Ameobi delivered a towering performance capped by Newcastle’s first goal of the campaign.

There is still much work to be done, though.

United still lack confidence and conviction in front of goal and there are rumblings on discontent on the terraces.

Newcastle continue to stumble through the transfer window and that has not gone unnoticed.

United’s sizeable following made their feelings clear last night, singing for Mike Ashley to sell up and mocking Joe Kinnear for the lack of much-needed signings. It does not feel like a happy camp.

However, it is – finally – a winning one. After an alarming first half, you could not say they did not deserve it after a second period where they exerted a stranglehold over the proceedings.

Given the magnitude of the occasion for Pardew, there was a certain boldness about a selection which saw him make eight changes to the team which laboured against West Ham at the weekend.

Vuckic, Ameobi, Bigirimana and Dummett we knew about, but debutant Curtis Good’s inclusion was enough to raise an eyebrow.

You could see Pardew’s logic given Good’s Cup pedigree. For those who had forgotten, the last time the Australian had played in this competition it was in the final for former loan club Bradford City.

Their magical slalom to Wembley is what is sustaining the hopes of all of the minnows this season and, judging by the excited air around the smart but compact Globe Arena, the Shrimpers certainly arrived believing in the power of the Cup upset.

The unofficial vendors milling around the entrance were doing a brisk business in half and half scarves and the corporate section was packed for United’s first visit to this seaside town. That nervous energy was channelled into a superb start for the hosts, who made life difficult for an unfamiliar looking Newcastle line-up. By half-time, it was black and white nerves that were fraying.

They knew they were in a game when, on the quarter-hour mark, Andrew Fleming launched into a late and ugly challenge on Mathieu Debuchy which prompted a flash of the yellow card from referee Mark Haywood.

It would be wrong to characterise Morecambe’s early efforts as agricultural, though. They attacked with purpose and looked the more likely to score for much of a tense opening half-hour.

Set pieces were always going to be their best hope. Morecambe’s aerial threat was exhibited early on when Andy Hughes rose unchallenged to head a corner past Rob Elliot - only for Gosling to hack the ball off the line.

It was an early warning of what the League Two outfit was capable of from dead balls - but it went unheeded.

Ten minutes later Padraig Amond nearly had the ball in the net in similar circumstances – only for Gosling to again save the day by blocking on the line.

Good’s night was proving a difficult one and twice Amond surged past the black and white defences to force smart saves from the excellent Elliot.

For Newcastle it was the energy of Ameobi – one of the players Pardew had challenged beforehand – which caught the eye.

Twice he hared down the flank past the despairing Andrew Wright but he could not find a cross to convert which initial good work into something more threatening.

Barring that, Newcastle looked like exactly what they were - an unfamiliar team trying to find some rhythm and urgency on the fly.

Bigirimana’s 33rd-minute free-kick, which dipped viciously before Barry Roche tipped it over the bar, was a rare sight of goal for the visitors.

Pardew’s reaction was to call for the senior Ameobi brother and Newcastle fashioned an instant opportunity for the striker.

Gosling threaded the ball through the Morecambe defence and into his path. His shot blazed over the crossbar.

Newcastle at least seemed to have some composure in the early stages of the second half.

Their route to defeating Morecambe was always going to be by stretching the play and working the ball around the hosts.

However, their lack of devilment in the final third led to loud and sustained calls for the introduction of schemer Hatem Ben Arfa from the bench.

He came on and the game swung in Newcastle’s favour.

Ameobi’s long-range drive, deflecting past Roche, eased the nerves and his younger brother ended the contest with a fine injury-time winner.

It was glorious respite for Pardew.

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