Newcastle United 1, Reading 2 - Alan Pardew Outsmarts Himself

Gareth Copley

Reading came from behind to put Newcastle in real relegation danger.

Everything was going so well. Newcastle were up 1-0 at half thanks to a fantastic free kick from Yohan Cabaye, and they were bossing play. Papiss Cisse made several beautiful shots, both wing backs were joining the attack (and defending too!), and Jonas Gutierrez was playing like he was 100% again.

Then it all went south. The book on Newcastle is clear, if recent trends are to be believed. Sub a fresh man in during the second half, and instruct him to make runs at Mike Williamson. It took all of 55 seconds for Adam Le Fondre to find the back of the net. Williamson was in position for once, but for some reason he tried to stomp on the ball and missed. All it took was a Le Fondre touch (off his chest?) and the teams were tied. Perhaps Willo heard the news about Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and decided he needed to sabotage the team just one more time before being nailed to a permanent spot on the bench.*

*I refuse to believe the imminent MYM signing is an indication Fabricio Coloccini is out. He might want to leave before this gets any uglier, however.

It got weirder after that. Yohan Cabaye, the lone goalscorer and the main source of creativity on the afternoon, was subbed off for the defensive-minded Gael Bigirimana - with 25 minutes left. Alan Pardew continued to encourage Shola Ameobi to play on the right wing, despite his obvious struggles there. Meanwhile, Williamson played hoofball while Rome burned.

It's a mess. I generally wait a bit to offer my thoughts on a match, because (A) I'm lazy, and (B) I want to let rationality to win out over emotion. In truth, there was no rationality on the pitch today, so I'll offer none off of it. Alan Pardew completely mishandled this match from the start by forcing his team into a formation that doesn't fit the personnel, and he compounded the problems when he decided to play for a draw at home with almost half an hour left. This team is now fully in the thick of a relegation battle, and the scary part about that is it's still January, so those who want to jump ship can still do so. Obviously, the fans won't jump ship - they didn't 4 years ago and they won't this year if the unthinkable happens. However, I'm completely empathetic with those who booed the manager and left early today. It was a pathetic display, and the team got what it deserved.

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