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Rovers 2 Newcastle 2


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Match Reoprt by Scotty

I'd been looking forward to this one for a while. I don't like Newcastle. Never have. I hate the way they think they're such a huge club (despite winning nothing) and the way they think they've got "the best fans in the world" (despite having next to no fans 15 years ago). And now they've got Souness. I was looking forward to this.

We started badly. We seemed too eager to get involved initially and gave away lots of soft free-kicks. This gave Newcastle the impetus early on and they started to press. A well worked move saw a cracking ball find a brilliant run from Dyer. His pace beat our pathetic attempt at off-side and, one-on-one against Friedel, he finished expertly. You simply can't play off-side when there's no pressure on the player playing the ball. I learnt that at junior school.

Newcastle's confidence returned and they started to play some good stuff. They kept possession in midfield and attacked with menace and it took all our resolve to keep them from running away with the game. But make no mistake, our team has got real heart. Back we came thanks to a great free-kick from Ferguson.

We won a free-kick about 30 yards out. Ferguson slotted it quickly to an unmarked Dickov who instictively turned and shot past the on-rushing Given. These are the type of goals Dickov scores - instictive finishes where he doesn't have time to think about what he has to do.

We didn't push on though and Newcastle deservedly regained the lead. This time they won a free-kick 30 yards out but the angle was against Robert. No matter, he curled a fantastic shot around the wall and into the near post side of the net. I came on here with the intention of giving Friedel a slating for his positioning but, seeing the goal on tv, I'm not sure Friedel could have done much about it. It was a great strike from Robert - sometimes you've just got to clap the opposition.

So, 2-1 down at half-time and that probably refelcted the first half play.

We were fantastic at the start of the second half. Thompson replaced the injured Reid at half time and he added some extra creativity to our play. Within 10 seconds of the restart Emerton was played through but his left foot shot was too weak to beat Given.

Thompson and Ferguson both had real chances to score before we finally got the equaliser. Ferguson was given the freedom of Ewood to fire a low shot at Newcastle's goal, Given saved but couldn't keep hold of the ball, and Todd (yes, Todd) knock in the rebound. I say knocked in, his finish was less than convincing (I think it bounced three times before it crossed the line - this from 4 yards out) but they all count.

For the next 10 minutes there was only one winner. We murdered Newcastle but we just couldn't turn our pressure into goals. Either the finish was off target or our final ball let us down. And, as always in football, we started to pay for our profligacy.

Newcastle slowly clawed their way back into the game and, for the next 10 minutes, they got on top. Our defence struggled to cope with the pace of Bellamy and the sub Ameobi and Newcastle started to carve open some real openings. Fortunately, a combination of good luck and good defending kept them out.

In the last ten minutes, in a game that ebbed and flowed throughout, we got on top again. We built up a real head of steam and once again it looked like there was only going to be one winner. But the substitution of the ref seemed to count against us as the delay halted us in our tracks, just when we looked like winning the game. Both teams broke against each other at the death but the game ended in a draw and perhaps that was a fair result in the end.

It was a strange game to judge really. We defended well yet we conceded two soft goals. Friedel could be faulted for the free-kick, and I'm sure he will be in some quarters, but I thought it was fantastically struck and would have beaten most keepers. Perhaps the wall could have been better.

Todd and Nissa were solid, Neill played well again, in fact only Matteo let the back four down. He was the one playing Dyer on-side for Newcastle's first and I thought he looked poor defensively throughout.

In midfield Ferguson was absolutely superb. A majestic performance. I've slagged him off in the past, quite rightly I feel, but today he was behind everything we did that was good. His quick thinking led to the first goal, his shot led to the second, but his general play was outstanding throughout the whole game. Man of the match by a mile. Would it be churlish of me to mention though that Newcastle's midfield might not have been the most competitive in the world?

The rest of the midfield did well and outplayed Newcastle's. Flitcroft protected the defence well, got stuck in, ballsed up possession from time to time, but overall was easily the most competitive midfielder on view today. Emerton looked class at times but his final balls were not always met with the finish they deserved. Reid played well before his injury and Thompson gave us something extra in the second half.

Our forwards weren't good enough. Dickov did a lot of things well, he took his goal superbly and frequently held the ball up and laid it off dangerously, but he also wasted possession a lot and never, never, linked up with his strike partner. It didn't help that his strike partner was crap. Stead was awful today. I've defended him in the past, and I still think he's going to be a top player, but the lad's so lacking in confidence it's untrue. He was just poor today and he should have been subbed long before he was.

Another thing I must mention today was the amount of stoppage time we were(n't) allowed at the end. The ref had to be subbed due to an injury. This must have taken at least 3 minutes to sort out. Add to that the ref's first stoppage for treatment and the 4 sub's then I'd have thought that there should have been at least 6 or 7 minutes of stoppage time. When the board came up with 3 minutes the whole ground couldn't believe it. And make no mistake, Newcastle were more grateful for the lack of time than we were.

Summing up todays game is difficult. We're a tough team to beat, the way we fought back today after going behind twice was excellent and shows the spirit and fight we've got in the side, but we've got to stop going behind. If we can get the first goal and then show the same spirit then we'll win games. We need better forwards to do that though. Dickov plays well most of the time but rarely links up with his partner. The rest of our forwards are inconsistent. We need a forward who can give us more options and someone who has a proven goal scoring record. Dare I say Hartson may be the answer!

For the first time this season I genuinely think we're too good to go down. We've just got to start proving it.

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