Where do you go with a reaction to that match? Even if it felt like the Toon were on the front foot for most of the match, we didn't look much like having the final quality to take advantage. Perhaps in a bit of most delicious irony it took Fulham adopting a full on 11 men behind the ball to steal a point tactic at the very end for Newcastle to find the match winner. Here are some quick hit points for your reaction:
- Newcastle were the better team in the first half, even if there wasn't anything to show for it. As you were sitting at halftime, however, you couldn't be faulted for feeling like it was setting up for the ultimate sack-tap. Surely 2012-13 Newcastle would show up and get played off the park in the second half and drop all three points keeping us square in the relegation battle, right? Wrong. Even if the final quality was lacking for much of the match, we stayed on the front foot and kept pressing, and it paid off.
- Tim Krul had two vital saves (couldn't I have just stopped at Tim Krul?) saving a close range shot during a goal mouth scramble and then producing a Tim Krul moment from a well worked Fulham move that ended with a terrific headed effort from Dimitar Berbatov. Those two moments set the stage for the ultimate catharsis that would unfold at the match's death.
- The double-post: Newcastle United nearly scored from a corner kick! Twice! I know you're probably not reading any more as you think it's devolved into fiction here... but it's true. In fact, had the match gone any other way (draw or loss), the talking point would have been the red card-able hand ball on Sascha Riether in the second half. From Yoan Gouffran's headed effort on a corner kick, Riether clearly stuck his arm out to prevent the shot sneaking between him and the post, deflecting it off the post and to Papiss Cissé who put his reflex shot onto the post as well. Everything about it was visible and should have been called... but:
- The Ball Don't Lie: This universal axiom expressed itself in the most delightful manner today. Yet another winner at the death for Newcastle United will go a massive distance in easing relegation fears, and it was another moment of brilliance from that man Papiss Cissé that made it so. Remember his first v. Chelsea last year? The one where he popped it up with his left foot and crushed it with his right? This was reminiscent of that in some ways. The ball came to him near the 6-yard box and he popped it up in the air. The pop was not as tidy this time as the one v. Chelsea, tough that may have been by design as this one took him across to the right side of the goal and got Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer going to his left as Papiss struck it across Schwarzer and into the net. Mass hysteria and pandemonium broke out as seemingly the entire squad ended up in the crowd celebrating. Alan Pardew even made a bee-line to the crowd for hugs and celebration. Which brings me to my final point:
- Alan Pardew: He has looked lacking this year tactically at times, but credit where it is due. Today's initial 4-4-2 was exactly the right call, even if it bore initially frustrating results on the pitch. The switch to something closer to the 4-2-3-1 following Davide Santon leaving with what looks like a hamstring injury was also correct. Although the Shola Ameobi for Yoan Gouffran was a head scratcher (as Gouffran was consistently, along with Sylvain Marveaux, one of our most consistently dangerous players), the substitute of Adam Campbell for Danny Simpson and a shift to something resembling a 3-4-3 was tactically accurate as well as Fulham had exhibited little interest in our flanks all match.
At the end of this match, we're now on 36 points. There are 5 matches left to earn 4 points to hit the mythical "40 points for safety" plateau and a win in the derby next week would nearly get us there while compounding the scum's own relegation fears...