CONFIDENCE must be cherished and protected at Newcastle United this season.
CONFIDENCE must be cherished and protected at Newcastle United this season. It must be nurtured and comforted in the Premier League. It cannot be shattered and broken at the first sign of adversity.
Newcastle’s 2-0 home defeat by Blackpool was a shock and brought back all sorts of unpleasant sensations at St James’ Park. That sinking, sickening feeling of disappointment. That irritating, frustrating sense of a letdown.
Newcastle have felt this before. They suffered time and time again during that horrific, agonising relegation campaign as games which should have been won slipped away on a stream of wasted opportunities, down a river of lost points.
In the first game United started as favourites in the Premier League they failed miserably to match expectations, but, for all of the disappointment generated by the Seasiders perfectly executed smash-and-grab raid on Tyneside, it was not a disaster, a mortal wound or portent of impending doom.
It was a setback and setbacks can be recovered from.
There is no question Newcastle should have taken all three points at home to one of only two sides who finished below them last season.
However, they lost to the same side away last term and were still promoted, so there is no reason to stop believing they cannot go on to achieve their goal of safety in this.
After four games, Newcastle have four points and if anything, all this shows is the folly of trying to predict anything based on a football fixture list.
This is not a predictable game, but their points return so far is probably about a par score considering the games they have played.
It is far too early to be pushing panic buttons or even fearing the worst, but a result like this is enough to cause concern.
Despite all their chances and the brilliance of Blackpool goalkeeper Matthew Gilks, Newcastle looked vulnerable at times against a side which came to contain and pounce on the counter-attack.
When Newcastle lost their shape in midfield, Blackpool contained them a little too easily at times.
The Magpies lacked width and were overly-reliant on long balls and set pieces pumped in the direction of Andy Carroll.
He is a potent weapon, but Newcastle will be disarmed too easily in this division if teams work out it is the only one they will use to threaten.
Interestingly, Newcastle were far more dangerous when they switched to two up front and Peter Løvenkrands’ pace and the ability to get in behind the Blackpool defence made them less predictable.
With Kevin Nolan the only man trying to feed off Carroll’s physical presence in the first half, Blackpool knew what was coming and the United skipper does not have the speed to get away when he is out-numbered.
Whether he continues in that role once Hatem Ben Arfa is fit is an intriguing dilemma for Chris Hughton in the weeks ahead, particularly when Newcastle are playing at home and the onus is on them to attack the game.
The young France international looked a little raw and unsure of how he slips into his new side, but there is no questioning his ability on the ball, his quick feet and eye for the unexpected.
As for Carroll, he has had a dream start to life in the Premier League with performances which have quite rightly suggested at an international future, but he is still on a learning curve and he will not find every assignment simple.
Blackpool’s centre-backs relished taking him on physically and when he did get an opening of goal he failed to take either of them in the second half.
The first when he tried to go round Gilks, when he should have lifted the ball over him as he committed himself to dive at his feet.
The second when, from ten yards, he shot a too closely to the goalkeeper after his strength and delicate touch had created a wonderful opening for himself.
It was an excellent save with his feet, but it was still one Gilks will feel he should make just as it is one Carroll knows he should take.
Gilks also did well to keep out Nolan in the first half and Joey Barton in the second, while Mike Williamson also hit the inside of the post with a header, but let’s not forget the quite brilliant double save by Steve Harper to deny DJ Campbell and Brett Ormerod.
Newcastle conceded twice in annoying fashion, completely against the run of play in the second when DJ Campbell finished off a break in which Fabricio Coloccini had three different men to mark, and because of a mistake in the first when Alan Smith’s got his body position wrong and stuck out a foot which Luke Varney gratefully tumbled over. Charlie Adam converted the spot-kick.