With the naming of the traveling squad yesterday, it was pretty clear that Alan Pardew was choosing player health over any potential positioning benefit regarding the impending round of 32 draw for the Europa League. When the lineup was announced this morning, it looked intriguing enough to adjust expectations upward even in the absence of a true first XI player.
The first half came and went and it still looked that Newcastle had a decent chance to take something from the match, but in the end those chances came to a familiar end when Mike Williamson was beaten with a long ball over the top which first-half scorer Cheick Diabate finished easily around Rob Elliot. With so many new faces in the lineup, I've decided to go through them player by player with a brief bit about their performances:
Rob Elliot: A far sight from the player I'd wanted out of the club on a rail this time last year. Kept the club in it with several vital saves in the first half. A little slow off the line for my liking.
James Tavernier: He was slow to close down Fahid ben Khalfallah on Bordeaux's first goal, but otherwise had a pretty solid match. Present through the whole match up and down the right side. In general terms, you'd probably not say he had an excellent match, but you can see why Pardew considers him a right back primarily.
Shane Ferguson: It seems at this point with Shane that it's feast or famine. He's either an absolute terror or absolutely anonymous. This day was more of the latter. Granted, most of Bordeaux's attacking went down the Newcastle right (v. Tav/Williamson... go figure.) and he was good enough at the defensive end.. but he was mediocre at best in the attack.
Gael Bigirimana: Started out very well on the right hand side of the 4-2-3-1 that Pardew employed early on... then progressively got less and less impactful as the match went on. Not his best match, overall.
Mehdi Abeid: I had high hopes for Mehdi in this match. Unfortunately, he was largely invisible in this match. I still think that long term he's a keeper for Newcastle, but I'm left comparing him and Gael Bigirimana in terms of impact on the squad this season. What is the difference between the two? Gael spent an entire season starting in the Championship while Abeid has refused loan after loan.
Sammy Ameobi: Speaking of "not his best match", that was Sammy perhaps more than anyone else. He was not his normal electric self on the left of the 4-2-3-1 and seemed more troubled trying to feed Shola than making the "right" decisions when given the chance. Rightly substituted off at halftime, I think. Anita solidified a soggy middle of the pitch for Newcastle, though he didn't quite provide the focus I'd hoped for when he came on.
Nile Ranger: Nile had the most to prove today and put in a very Leon Best-ish type shift today. He was perhaps not as dangerous as you might have hoped in a purely attacking view, he tracked back effectively for the entire match, headed some useful balls on toward Shola and did show a glimpse of his attacking potential late on with a pretty turn around the defense but was unable to keep his shot on target. Surely increased his stock with that performance.
At the end of it all, Newcastle were well beaten on the day, but as I mentioned on the Twitter at one point: it was pretty clear when the traveling squad was named that Pardew was putting very little emphasis on round of 32 positioning, so we probably needed to start out with a different idea watching this match anyway. It was a chance for many young players to put a foot forward in Pardew's reckoning and it was perhaps the player we would have thought least likely to even feature a month ago that did the most in that regard.