Living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area of Texas, we are exposed to the phenomenon known as Over Reaction Monday. On a Monday in DFW if the Dallas Cowboys have won that weekend the radio pundits and fan callers will discuss at length the Playoff readiness of the team and give Super Bowl score predictions etc. If The Cowboys have Lost that weekend the fans and radio personalities cry out in rage calling for players to be benched and coaches to be sacked. We see similarity between the fan bases of the Dallas Cowboys and NUFC. Both sets are so passionately welled up with emotion about game day that it spills over, win or lose, into the next days' discussions, and it almost always results in over reaction. So, with that in mind, we offer a "day late" look at the past week's match, in hopes that the emotion will be tamed and we can give a Reasonable Reaction to the weekend's match.
We wondered, after losing to Blackpool then immediately winning at Everton and Chelsea, just which team would be showing up for this Stoke City match, and if we could expect an end to this Jekyll and Hyde act we've endured thus far. After the Stoke match was over we had our answer. We would now have to wonder which team was showing up from half to half.
The first half was how we thought the game should go. We kept Stoke in their own end. Our defense was squelching. We earned a few nice set pieces and the penalty that gave us the lead. The lads were all on form and no great complaints could be made about any of them. Other than to say that we should have converted at least one more of those quality chances into goals. We're thinking of Enrique in the box, crossing on the ground into empty space that neither Routledge or Perch could get to; perhaps Jose should have just shot it.
One thing that can be said about the first half is that Diao kept Andy Carroll silent, but we still felt pretty confident that if we kept the same kind of pressure on Stoke through the second half then we'd have all three points at the end. Something happened over the half though that we are still at a loss to explain. Whatever was said to either side in the changing room we have no idea, but what we do know is that the Magpies came out entirely flat, and Stoke had decided that they weren't going to take this laying down. Matthew Etherington came on at the half and made use of his fresh legs, he seemed to fly from man to man at both ends of the pitch. The entire Stoke side fed of of this and before long the entire team was playing with a vigor that we hadn't yet seen. That was compounded by what I can only assume was a plan from NUFC to protect the lead. It had our lads looking lazy and disinterested. When they did start to react to Stoke's pressure it was haphazard at times and it only got worse as the match wore on.
Then Rory Delap came on the pitch without so much as stretching, which means he was on the field to do one thing, and as far as we're concerned it's the only thing he does at any rate. He throws the ball high and into the penalty box and he does it well. We hadn't noticed before but Fabricio Coloccini has a distinct weakness when fighting for the ball in the air, as does James Perch. When Delap started getting throws the shots started making me more and more nervous. At this point it looked inevitable that Stoke would tie it and they did off the head of Kenwyne Jones, who had already hit the woodwork twice. After that Jonas came on for ben Arfa which confused us, but as far as we're concerned he proved worthy, playing very hard and creating a few good chances. Then Hughton sent Ameobi on, which didn't surprise us, but it was at the cost of Tiote. We thought Barton would have been the better send off there, as holding the ball in the midfield had been a strength of our side all day. In hindsight it was a bad change as it ended up not producing the intended offensive support and seemed to leave Barton and Nolan out of position often.
In the last ten minutes it was a corner conceded off of another Delap throw that would put the Potters ahead. It was a mid height cross from Etherington toward Huth on the near side but it was Perch on the end of it, putting a rocket of a header past Krul. It would have been beautifully played at the other end of the pitch, but on our side it was heartbreaking. It's hard to fault Perch on it. He had to play it, he just needed to get a bit more under it.
The Mags showed a bit of life in the waining minutes and Nolan had a glorious chance in the six minutes of overage, but he put it not only wide of Sorensen but wide of the post. And that's how it ended at SJP. Our Jekyll and Hyde Magpies, playing great for the first half and abysmally the second.
This loss puts us 10th in the table. but only two points ahead of the bottom. We must say that we do not like losing games that we ought to win in exchange for winning games that we ought to lose. We think that the season in the Championship may have been character building, and has put a lot of fight into these lads, but it also has seemed to produce a flippant attitude toward games like this. Taking a game off, or a half off against lesser squads may have done the trick in that league but we're in the Prem now. Overcoming great odds in exchange for succumbing to scant ones will not last with any longevity whatsoever. We must begin taking these mid table games much more seriously.
NUFC side: Krul, Perch, Jose Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Tiote (Ameobi 74), Barton, Nolan, Carroll, Routledge, Ben Arfa (Gutierrez 62),
Unused subs: Soderberg, Lovenkrands, Ryan Taylor, Smith, Ranger.
Goals: Nolan, penalty 43
SCFC: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Collins, Whelan (Delap 57), Whitehead, Diao-Booked (Fuller 49 [Gudjohnsen 67]), Jones, Walters, Etherington.
Unused Subs: Begovic, Higginbotham, Wilson, Faye.
Goals: Jones 67, Perch OG 85