Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 4

THERE are times when words do not seem to be enough, when no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot do the size and magnitude of an achievement justice.

Joey Barton shoots from the penalty spot in Newcastle's match against Arsenal
Joey Barton shoots from the penalty spot in Newcastle's match against Arsenal

THERE are times when words do not seem to be enough, when no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot do the size and magnitude of an achievement justice.

No matter how long you attempt to describe it, you will never truly capture the incredible drama and emotion of the occasion.

Newcastle United’s sensational comeback against Arsenal can be summed up in a match report, the brilliance of the feat can be placed on record and what it means to a team which has had to overcome so much this season can be explained.

However, the feeling that accompanied it, that is yours to remember and to cherish. It is too special and too unique to spoil.

It will live forever, it will be there at every match you attend, it will offer hope in even the darkest of Newcastle hours.

It will keep you warm on cold January nights, you will pass it down to your children, it will be romanticised and immortalised and if you were there, if you stayed for the second-half, if you played your part in the dismantling of a superb Arsenal side, you have witnessed one of the greatest games of football Tyneside has ever seen. Only the person reading this knows how they felt as that stunning, fantastic fightback unfolded in front of their eyes.

Only those who stood inside St James’ Park and heard the roar that accompanied each goal, each Newcastle tackle, each Newcastle attack, will know the emotion that overwhelmed them.

It was a wonderful, exhilarating feeling, a rare rush, a spine-tingling, tear-jerking thrill of a ride which pumped you full of adrenaline, pride and joy.

First, though, came the low, the despair and the devastation.

For 45 minutes, Newcastle United were a comedy of errors, only nobody other than Arsenal was laughing.

The defending was so bad, the passing so poor, the marking so slack, the movement so stilted, United were a joke of a football team representing a joke of a football club.

They were a team which looked as if it had been destroyed by the departure of one player, a group of players who no longer believed in itself or the leadership of those who run it because of the controversial sale of Andy Carroll.

They played like players who felt sorry for themselves and sorry for what their season had become.

Arsenal took advantage like cackling hyenas stripping the carcass of a wounded zebra.

It was horrible to watch and appeared to confirm the fresh demise of Newcastle United had begun with the £35m sale of their star striker. There is no need to go into too much detail about Arsenal’s four goals other than to say the defending was atrocious.

Theo Walcott scampered clear of a flat back four after a lovely first-time pass from Andrei Arshavin to score the first after just 42 seconds and Johan Djourou headed in unchallenged after he drifted unmarked in between Kevin Nolan and Mike Williamson at a set-piece.

There were less than three minutes gone and the Magpies looked dead and buried inside ten, Walcott cutting the ball back to Robin van Persie after making a mockery of José Enrique at left-back. Bacary Sagna did the same to the Spaniard after 26 minutes, Williamson merely watching as van Persie ran straight in front of him to head in a pinpoint cross.

Van Persie very nearly made it five before the break and Steve Harper made two fine saves to keep the score down, but it appeared to be nothing more than a damage limitation exercise.

Newcastle were in complete disarray, and there were those in the stands who could no longer contain their anger.

One grey-haired fan standing behind the Newcastle dugout delivered a sustained verbal assault on manager Alan Pardew before presumably stomping off to the pub in a huff.

He was not alone, several others thought they had seen all they could take at half-time. It is a decision they will always regret.

Pardew’s half-time team talk was aggressive and to the point.

Go out there are repair some of the damage, but even he could not envisage what followed as a partisan crowd refused to turn on their own and Arsenal buckled the more pressure was exerted.

As soon as Abou Diaby was dismissed, correctly, for grabbing Joey Barton in protest at a stiff but fair tackle from the midfielder, and throwing him to the floor, Newcastle had hope and the charge gathered momentum. Danny Simpson had already been denied by Wojciech Szczesny when Leon Best was tripped from behind by Laurent Koscielny and Barton converted from the spot. Twenty-two minutes were left.

Best should have pulled another back minutes later, but was incorrectly judged to be offside, but the Republic of Ireland international would not be denied, stabbing home an Enrique cross at the second attempt.

Arsenal’s confidence was crumbling, their crowing support silenced.

When Barton converted from the spot for a second time after Nile Ranger had twice been kept out by Szczesny, this time when Williamson was fortunate to earn a penalty following an aerial challenge from Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky, it felt like a fourth was inevitable. In what spectacular fashion it came. A Barton free-kick was headed towards where Cheik Tioté lurked. The ball looped towards him, the midfielder set himself, standing on his favoured right foot before smashing a dipping volley into the bottom corner from 30 yards out with his weaker left.

St James’ Park erupted into a roaring, cheering, dancing sea of celebration. Nolan almost won it in stoppage time, but nobody complained about the draw.

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David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer