As the game progressed, Newcastle started brightly enough, but it was proving to be something of a scrappy affair in the first half. But there was to be some, if not alot of excitement at both ends of the pitch. The first event of any note was when Ameobi, usually something of a talisman against Sunderland, missed a very good chance after around three or four minutes of the game to put the Magpies ahead. While he showed some endeavour to get on the end of a very good delivery by Joey Barton, his finish wasn’t great, and his effort was just wide of the post. Shortly after that, Sunderland’s Darren Bent was to return the favour at the other end, however he fired his fairly close range effort firmly at the legs of Steve Harper.
Barton continued his good work work by whipping some balls into the general area, however there weren’t many great chances at all. The windswept dust bowl that is The Stadium of Plight was it’s usual self, and this was hardly conducive to good passing. One highlight however was a great run by Enrique around the quarter of an hour mark, however it comes to nothing when he is eventually stopped in his tracks. Incidentally, it was an excellent game in general for the Spanish left back, along with his Argentinian sidekick, Fabricio Coloccini, who were both definite contenders for some kind of “man of the match” award, along with the aforementioned Barton. Both Colo and Enrique were huge in defence on the day, with Colo in particular putting in some great tackles and generally outmuscling the opposition. His mobilty around all areas of the pitch was also excellent, and like Enrique, he lent his weight to the attack, without forgetting to track back and take care of his own business. This is something his collegue, Steven Taylor (who didn’t play today) could learn alot from.
After around 35 minutes of the game, our substitute midfield terrier, Alan Smith, received a taste of his own medicine for a change, as he had to limp forlornly off the pitch after an illegal challenge by Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson. This gives a chance for Danny Guthrie to get on the pitch and show us what he can do.
After half time, things got a bit better, especially for Newcastle who were just about dominating the game generally. However it should be noted that this was somthing of a lacklustre performance on the day by Sunderland, especially for a local derby game which was something Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, later acknowledged. It was almost first blood to the them though, as Darren Bent had a good chance which he spurned, clipping a shot past Harper, but also past the right post too.
Joy for Newcastle finally came in the 52nd minute though, as another good delivery from Barton (from a corner) found the head of Ameobi, who’s downward header was picked up by Kevin Nolan for a real poacher’s goal that was only a few inches from the goal line. Cue yet another “Chicken Dance” from the scouser!
Shortly after that, there was another great chance for the Magpies. A beautiful cross slung in by Enrique almost found Leon Best for what would have been a certain goal. However the striker just couldn’t quite get there on time unfortunately.
By now, the game was less scrappy and Newcastle certainly seeemed to be geting the upper hand generally. We deserved our 1-0 lead, and the defence, most notably the aforementioned Enrique and Coloccini were doing a sterling job. Sunderland’s genuine chances were very few at this stage, with Ahmed Elmohamady having the only genuine chance that I can remember. However that shot was deflected off one of his own players and sent wide of the mark. This made extra time all the more painful, as events were somewhat marred (for us lot, anyway) by a goal in the final seconds by Asamoah Gyan, as a shot by Sunderland’s Bardsley is palmed away by Steve Harper, and Gyan picks up the sloppy seconds for a looping effort off his chest into the top corner of the goal.
Very disappointing after a decent game for the lads, but at least it wasn’t a loss.