Friday, February 13, 2004

Profligacy doesn't pay

How many more times will we throw away invaluable points this season?

Just as was the case with Birmingham, it looked as though we were all set to avenge a 1-0 home defeat by Blackburn with a reversal of that scoreline on their own patch - and then we let in a late equaliser. What matters is not that, as at Birmingham, it would have been a win we scarcely deserved on the balance of play, but that we seem incapable of doing what teams with our aspirations should be able to - namely, holding out to win games even when we're not playing particularly well.

Blackburn's home record this season has been very poor, and we really ought to have capitalised on that. Bellamy got our goal, marking his return to the first team from long-term injury in style - though he was also subjected to some brutal and bizarrely unpunished "tackling" from that thug Lucas Neill, who doesn't seem to have learnt to control his behaviour following the infamous Carragher incident. Though he gave his all, as always, Shearer's failure to find the net again is giving cause for concern, as is the state of our Woodgate-less defence - solid with the former Leeds man at the heart of it, but nervy and jittery when Bramble and O'Brien line up alongside each other. Blackburn's equaliser came five minutes from time, new boy Jon Stead scoring from a Paul Gallagher cross that Dyer should probably have cut out

It's now six consecutive draws away from home. On the one hand, that suggests we're tough to beat. But on the other, we need to take our chances and start putting together a sequence of wins - though Charlton's challenge appears to be fading of late and Fulham are slipping out of the reckoning, Liverpool have leapfrogged us by beating Man City and Villa have suddenly hit a rich vein of form. Most frustratingly from the point of view of a Newcastle fan, of course, this run of form has coincided with the arrival of a certain Peruvian winger, as the Villa-supporting first caller on Wednesday night's Radio 5 Live 606 phone-in was quick to point out...

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