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Reasonable Reaction Wednesday: Chelsea FC 1-1 Newcastle United FC

Several weeks ago, when NUFC beat Chelsea in the Carling Cup, most of the post match banter was about how Chelsea started the scrubs. Our review said that simply was not the case, and empirically it was not. That's before we even get started mentioning that Newcastle itself did not run out its top eleven. This week it's the same song but a different verse.

This week it's all about how Chelsea has been slumping all month, and unable to manage their assets correctly, and how away for has been horrible, and if only Lampard and Terry were healthy, and, and, and. That's fine. To be honest I'm not really of a mood to give our lads much credit. Let me be clear in saying that I am very happy about the draw against one of the top EPL sides, and where it has us in the table at the end of November. But, if we continue to play our best football for the tops of the league and lay down again and again for the lower half, then we are working on a recipe for failure. We simply cannot leave these points for Blackburn and Bolton, and hope to make up for them versus the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. Even if we go on the entire season this way right up to the last match I will continue to say that this is playing with fire.

Now, that out of the way, let me brag on the lads a bit. That first half was a Newcastle kind of half. I'm on record bragging about this team when they score first and Sunday was no exception to that rule. And they might should have gone into the half up 1-0 except for a bit of bad luck when Kalou put quite a charge into a shot that Krul had a good bead on until it deflected slightly off of a Newcastle leg.

The second half, though the stat sheet would call it domination by Chelsea, proved the tenacity of this Black and White squad. Feeling the likely assault from Chelsea, Hughton put ten men behind the ball and let Nile Ranger be the sprinter on the counter attack. It generated a few chances, and a corner that was headed toward the foot of Wayne Routledge with Cech horribly out of position. He hit the volley about as well as anyone could but the single Chelsea defender between he and the net was able to keep it out. In the last twenty minutes it seemed that NUFC was holding onto the draw for dear life, which, to their credit, they did hold onto. Tenacity.

Player Notes:

Tim Krul continues to impress. Several key saves and without that ill-fated deflection he would have kept the clean sheet.

Sol Campbell was in good form, even if a bit rusty. I love Mike Williamson, and I think he's growing every week, but if Sol shakes a bit more rust off in the next two games I'll be starting to think that he belongs in the top Mid Back duo.

Cheik Tiote was very much missed last week, and a player of his ability and style is just what makes this defence click. He gave Drogba fits all match and at the end of the day mostly nullified his usually considerable influence.

Jose Enrique may have been NUFC's best player overall. Lots of hustling back and forth for him as usual, with none of the defensive mishaps that he's been guilty of in the past. Offensively he and Jonas were cutting up the left side very effectively.

Jonas Gutierrez had a rather poor outing I thought. I don't really know why he insists on taking defenders one on one. I'll give that when it works it looks great on a highlight reel, but by the numbers he fails far far more often than he succeeds.

Danny Simpson continues to prove that he is the correct choice over James Perch on the right side of the defense, and he seems to be improving week in week out.

Wayne Routledge has flashes of first team type play, but hasn't quite convinced me that he warrants pushing Joey Barton to the center of the field.

Andy Carroll was the only player that showed up last week for Bolton and he played a very similar game this week. Staying back to help defend set pieces and hustling big time up front.

Man of the Match: Jose Enrique
This draw moves us up to 9th in the table based on goal differential. I will settle for anything over relegation happily but I think this team may be capable of a top half finish if we can sort out how to stay motivated against the rest of the league, as it were.