Newcastle United 1 Chelsea 1
Nov 29 2010 by Luke Edwards, The Journal
NEWCASTLE United are developing the rather nice habit of producing their best just when their supporters are starting to fear the worst.
This time it was an impressively disciplined performance against Chelsea, which pushed them another point closer to survival.
You are not always rewarded with three points for a victory, yet this was another triumph of sorts for Newcastle and manager Chris Hughton, who has added a home draw to that brilliant win at Arsenal at the start of the month.
It was not as headline-grabbing as that famous trip to the Emirates, but in the context of their campaign, this was just as important.
United have dropped points where they should not have this term, but this was one gained where few expected and that does wonders for confidence.
Better Newcastle sides than this one have consistently struggled to take points off the best teams in the country, both at home and on their travels.
And there is something comforting about the way these players come out fighting whenever they are backed into a corner.
Dreadful at Bolton the previous weekend, and inconsistent to say the least at St James’s this season, this was a return to the values and attitudes which have served them so well up until this point.
The criticism that followed that 5-1 thrashing stung and so it should have, but this was the only way to respond.
Chelsea dominated possession and looked the more capable side, but Newcastle, without injured skipper Kevin Nolan, were efficient defensively and occasionally exciting going forward.
They worked hard, fought for everything and ran themselves into the ground – in some cases to a complete standstill in injury time – and that was enough to disrupt Chelsea’s fluency and maintain a security blanket over a new-look back four.
Chelsea will point to the continued absence of key men like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien in trying to explain their third league game without a win, yet United were without some of their own in Joey Barton and Fabricio Coloccini.
Given that they had never played a Premier League game together and, in Steven Taylor’s case, had not started a competitive game since January because of injuries, he and Sol Campbell did superbly in the centre of defence.
As for Cheik Tiote, he was a rock on his return to the centre of midfield and there is no doubt the Ivory Coast international is vital to the balance of the side.
In turn, Wayne Routledge may infuriate at times with his decision-making, but he added another dimension to the team’s style of play with his pace on the right.