WRITING his pre-match programme notes, even Newcastle United’s manager admitted in the grander scheme of things this was a nothing match, and on paper, 1-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers was a nothing result.
The game was pleasing on the eye but, relegated to last on Match of the Day, a bit of a comedown from the excitement of the last match at St James’ Park. Nevertheless, the manner of a hard-earned point suggested that 12 games in, Project Pardew is proceeding steadily.
Since the 4-4 draw with Arsenal, Newcastle have ground out three results as unglamorous as their opposition. Saturday’s was another.
Hard though it may be for some to accept, Bolton are an established Premier League side, Newcastle are not. The 5-1 hiding at the Reebok Stadium which went a long way to parachuting Alan Pardew into the St James’ dugout was a reminder that these Trotters are no plonkers, so holding them to a draw when a man down for 36 minutes is no mean feat.
It owed a lot to Pardew’s tactics. Most Newcastle fans were distinctly underwhelmed when they found out that instead of replacing Chris Hughton with a new Messiah, Mike Ashley had plumped for a man out of work since being shown the door by League One Southampton.
But if he can continue the team’s current rate of progress, perhaps the Londoner can win over the Gallowgate realists as Hughton eventually did.
When Ryan Taylor went chasing his own first touch, it was not just Johan Elmander he hurt. The red card Chris Foy gave the Merseysider on his first Premier League start this season looked to have done more damage to Newcastle than Taylor did to the Swede’s legs.
Having scored the goal they had been no more than hinting at late in the first half, Bolton seemed to be getting a foothold in the second. Taylor’s dismissal only made it feel more secure. Playing with ten men is not always the disadvantage it appears, but the Magpies were unwilling to unfurl a blanket defence and Owen Coyle’s team played the sort of passing football well suited to exploiting numerical superiority.
So Pardew changed things. Off came the lively Peter Løvenkrands and Jonás Gutiérrez – a man able to supply the extra energy needed to cover Taylor’s absence. On came Nile Ranger and Steven Taylor as the Magpies went 3-4-2.