Friday, September 24, 2010

Carling Cup: Ameobi subverts Carroll as New Messiah

Two high-profile debuts down for two improbable victories. In Sol Campbell's first game in a Newcastle shirt the Magpies pulled off another unlikely victory away at Chelsea, a team previously undefeated this season. Following Saturday's win at Everton, the Tyneside faithful are singing as loudly as ever and charmingly, slightly off-pitch.

Campbell's influence was moderate at best. A dubious penalty notwithstanding, the team shopped three goals, at times looked outpaced by a very speedy Chelsea unit and were saved only by an injury-time header by Shola Ameobi, since anointed on internet chatboards as Newcastle's New New Saviour. Rumours abound that the two-goal hero may replace last month's passé New Saviour Andy Carroll as target man for the weekend's match is tempered only with a modicum of talk about how Carroll has actually played recently.

There's talk of silverware – after six weeks, no less – and in Hughton and his boys the Toon army have found a club they feel are worthy of their support. Their depth, rightly questioned in the past, has perhaps become a strength as the Gaffer saw fit to play Ryan Taylor (what a free kick – sublime!), Peter Lovenkrands, old warhorse Alan Smith, Campbell and Ameobi alongside the youth of Nile Ranger, Tim Krul, Haris Vukcic and Shane Ferguson. From all accounts, Ferguson and Ranger were particularly effective, if occasionally overawed by the spectacle of playing a strong Blues side at Stamford Bridge.

With the news that No. 1 Goalkeeper Steve Harper is out (shoulder) until Christmas, discussion now centres even more around Krul and his suitability to replace the Grand Old Man of Tyneside Keeping. The Dutchman must be aware of new talk linking the club to an emergency loan deal for Shay Given but that for now remains pie-in-the-sky. Krul's game on Wednesday was just fair as he showed glimpses of talent but failed show display the requisite strength to command his area effectively. If a goalie fails to command his area, he must be an excellent communicator and a lack of this communication between himself and Campbell – as well as Ranger's ineffectual box presence – was at fault for the first goal.

An encouraging win to continue an promising start to the season. That the fans are discussing silverware is obviously both amusing, premature and true-to-form, but with a start like they've had there's no reason that Newcastle can't continue to surprise their opposition. Silverware, however, remains a long way away.

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