Three days after a heartbreaking loss in the EFL Cup quarterfinal, Newcastle headed south to take on 17th place Nottingham Forest, a team that has struggled to string wins together this year. Forest’s position so close to the relegation zone (4 points clear of 21st) is clearly due to their poor defensive performance. Overall, they’ve allowed 32 goals (2nd worse in the English 2nd tier).
Rafa Benitez countered Forest’s 3-5-2 with his familiar 4-2-3-1, and made three changes from his midweek squad: Paul Dummett in for Achraf Lazaar at left back, DeAndre Yedlin in for Vurnon Anita at right back, and Ayoze Perez in for Mohamed Diame playing underneath Dwight Gayle.
For 30 minutes we watched a proper football match: two teams of eleven players going head-to-head. Newcastle was doing well. They struggled to get any clear goalscoring chances, but with 2 shots and 69% possession, they were in control.
Then referee Steve Martin and Forest midfielder Henri Lansbury teamed up for what I can only think to call silly-time football. As the ball was cleared from inside the Newcaslte box, Jonjo Shelvey and Lansbury got tangled up. Martin was given word from his linesman that Shelvey had done something malicious to Lansbury, who was still on the ground, and should be shown red for violent conduct.
Upon further review, it appears Shelvey had inadvertently stepped on Lansbury, and after a delayed reaction, Lansbury Started writhing around in pain.
A few frames previous to this, Shelvey appeared to aggressively extend his cleats towards Lansbury without actually making contact. LOOK AT HIS FACE! This has no place in the game. He baited the officials into giving red. This is cheating.
My first thought too was that he had done something sinister. Shelvey is known to be a hot head and has shown bad judgment in the past. It was only a few months ago, that he was charged with throwing a racial slur towards one of his opponents. But this time wasn’t one of those cases, and it was immediately apparent.
On top of being down to 10 men, Karl Darlow was facing a penalty kick with Nicklas Bendtner at the spot. Fantastically, Darlow stopped the poor attempt from 12 yards out to keep the score 0-0. The kick was a poor one to Darlow’s right. He guessed right and was rewarded
The save seemed to ignite the Black and White as they pushed for the goal that would put them up 1-0. For the 10 minutes following the red card, Newcastle out-possessed their opponents 72-28, leading to a Matt Ritchie goal just before the end of the first half:
Forest midfielder Matty Cash gave the ball away 35 yards from goal after being pressured by both Yoan Gouffran and Ciaran Clark. Now in possession, Clark laid the ball off to Isaac Hayden, who swung the ball low into the box. After two Nottingham players tipped the ball, it found its way to the left foot of Ritchie, who made no mistakes and put the Magpies up 1-0.
With the first half now in added time, silly-time football was about to rear it’s ugly head once again, starring referee Steve Martin and Forest midfielder Henri Lansbury.
Lansbury made an excellently timed run-in behind Newcastle defenders and was given a great ball over the top. Instead of trying to bring the ball down with his feet and finish (like the game is supposed to be played), he stopped, shielded the ball, and before Paul Dummett could even get there, flopped to the grass. (See above: he went for the ground before Dummett made contact). Referee Steve Martin proceeded to award the second penalty kick of the game, and once again reached for a red card. This isn’t funny Steve Martin.
Arch enemy Henri Lansbury now dusted himself off and lined up for the spot kick. Before Karl Darlow’s second attempt at defending his goal from a penalty kick, he was of course shown a yellow for… #umpshow. Landsbury, like Bendtner before, chose to shoot low and to Darlow’s right, and again Darlow was up to the task. The former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper was truly heroic, keeping his team up one as the whistle sounded for halftime.
Rafa Benitez now had the unenviable task of maintaining a one goal lead for 45 minutes playing against a team with 2 more players on the field. He chose to take off Ayoze Perez in favor of Vurnon Anita as left fullback, setting up in a 4-3-1.
Predictably, Forest was able to keep hold of the ball three-fourths of the second half. Despite this, it was still Newcastle who impressed, holding their line more often than not. Benitez has drilled this team to be very defensively stout no matter how many players are on the field.
Unfortunately, seven minutes in Nicklas Bendtner was able to get the ball behind Darlow and tie the game at one. A ball was floated into the six yard box, where Britt Assombalonga headed the ball into Jamaal Lascelles’ belly. Lascelles and Clark couldn’t clear the line and a scrambling Bendtner was able to poke the ball over the line with his toe.
30+ minutes of gutsy football later and the Black and White were still hanging onto one point. In the 86th minute, Forest was awarded a corner. From the corner, Henri Lansbury put the ball into the near post, where substitute Apostolos Vellios was able to flick the ball with his head towards the back post, and ricocheted in off of captain Jamaal Lascelles for an own goal. 2-1 Reds. It was a truly unjust ending for the former Nottingham Forest defender and his teammates.
I’m making that face too buddy.
After the final whistle, Newcastle still leads the English Championship, two points ahead of second place Brighton. The Seagulls have the opportunity to climb into poll position when facing Cardiff City tomorrow in Wales. Nottingham Forest, with their third straight win, charge up the table into 13th place. Newcastle now has eight much-needed days off until they host fourth place Birmingham next Saturday.
-Howay the Lads