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Fan blog: Newcastle Utd 0 - 1 Blackburn Rovers

Newcastle Utd 0 - 1 Blackburn. Credit: ITV News

By Stuart Stratford

Blackburn Rovers dented Newcastle United’s promotion push in front of another packed house at St James Park.

Rafa Benitez rang the changes following the comprehensive victory at Elland Road last weekend and was rewarded by an unsurprisingly abysmal performance. Despite this, the players left the pitch to a chorus of “We’re still going to win the league”. Defeat is dimming belief in the players to get back to the top flight at the first time of asking.

Newcastle deserved little from this game – certainly not a win – and can have few complaints about defeat. It took over an hour for a shot on target and unsurprisingly, Steele in the Blackburn goal turned Shelvey’s shot aside quite comfortably. Graham had the game’s first effort, his header though set the tone and cleared the bar. Newcastle responded by huffing and puffing, Yedlin made Steele claim his driven cross whilst Mitrovic had his shot deflected wide.

As the game wore on, the crowd slumped lower into their seats and the normal vibrancy in the stands was dragged down to the level of the display on the pitch. Before the interval, Atsu and Yedlin shot wide before Mitrovic thrashed another effort high and wide. The shrill peep from the referee’s whistle woke many up from their slumber and there was more life in queues for the concessions than had been seen on the pitch.

Things improved in the second half although the bar was set so low in the first that it was hard for to be any worse. Atsu picked up where he left off in the first half, firing wide early on. Things got a little better when Hayden picked up the ball in the midfield and lashed a shot wide from outside the area, invigorating the crowd, even if some were convinced they’d been woken up for a fire drill. Jesus Gamez started his first Championship match this season and had been untroubled until he suffered what looked to be a collarbone injury and was replaced by Paul Dummett. If Rafa Benitez could have replaced half the side, he probably would have do so. Matt Ritchie was the next to miss, arriving to latch onto Mitrovic’s flick but in keeping with the rest of the afternoon, he fired over from six yards out. Even the best that Newcastle have fell prey to the lacklustre finishing which afflicted the whole squad this afternoon.

As many wondered what they could have been doing more productively this afternoon, a brief flurry of action interrupted the lull. Emnes had been on the pitch only briefly when fed the ball in the area, he span and skewed his shot wide. The warning injected some urgency into the Magpies but only marginally improved their accuracy. After Shelvey’s shot had been turned wide, Steele reacted quickly to snuff out the danger as Clark seemed poised to score.

With a quarter of an hour remaining of normal time, the deadlock was broken. Somehow, Blackburn forced a corner and sent their travelling support into delirium when Mulgrew slammed his shot past the helpless Darlow. Belatedly, Dwight Gayle entered the fray but it was to little effect. The rot had well and truly set in for the afternoon, the latest striker to force his way into the affections of the Toon Army’s hearts blazed over as the final whistle loomed.

Full-time arrived and the only thing missing was the Gallowgate emptying to the sounds of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. A poor performance got the result it deserved but so far this season, Newcastle have responded well to setbacks this season and there’s no reason to believe they won’t this time either.

Fan blog: Leicester City 2 - 2 Middlesbrough

Leicester City 2 - 2 Middlesbrough. Credit: ITV News

Am walking away from the King Power Stadium completely gutted. A penalty for Leicester seconds from the end of time added on has prevented us from taking 3 points and leap frogging the Champions. A second penalty we conceded in a match where we took it to Leicester and led twice. A game in which Alvaro Negredo slayed his critics as well as the opposition with two supremely taken goals.

Yes we feel gutted but by the same token there are just so many positives to be taken from this performance. If Valdez clicked against Arsenal and de Roon against Manchester City then Negredo made the grade today. But the whole team showed real Premier class and for long periods completely outplayed the Champions. Boro shocked The Foxes when he was the fox in the box to finish sublimely from Ramirez break away and cross. Boro dominated the first half hour but then Leicester were flung a lifeline when Chambers arm was raised an arm in the box. But was he pushed? That was the opinion of most in the away end.

Second half and we might have expected to kick on but just as at Man City Boro went at their opponents. The football was superb in that period. There was lots of one touch football and great running on and off the ball. Leicester were chasing shadows. Especially when Negredo burst clear and brilliantly finished past Zieler into the corner of the net. Boro players and fans alike were in seventh heaven. And we might easily have added a third when Barragan's centre was finger tipped away from our on rushing forwards.

Time was running out and Boro brought on Stuani and Fischer to eat up the clock. Leicester took the long ball approach but we were weathering the storm. They looked a beaten team. Then with only seconds left de Roon mistimed a tackle on the edge of the box. Penalty. Slimani slid it home. Absolute nightmare.

We didn't quite manage to avenge the death of Yorkist Richard III and didn't leapfrog the Foxes but we put on a fantastic Premier display. Keep playing like that and there is absolutely no way this team is going down. Leicester 2-2 Middlesbrough.

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Fan blog: Liverpool 2 - 0 Sunderland

Liverpool 2 - 0 Sunderland Credit: ITV News

By Paul Dobson

What a difference a couple of weeks makes! What a difference a couple of wins makes! Having watched Victor Anichebeast warming up, we Sunderland fans could be forgiven for wondering why Moyes had bothered, as the lad looked more like a heavyweight boxer than a footballer as he jogged along the line. Then he got a start at Bournemouth, and we were left wondering what on earth West Brom had done squeeze so little out of him. A goal on the south coast was followed by a second barnstorming display and another two goals against Hull. The closest I can come in describing him is as a rubgy player in the Jonah Lomu mould, as defenders simply bounced off Big Vic as he thunders up the field showing a remarkable turn of speed for such a large fella.

We might be second bottom (thanks, Swansea - I didn't realise how badly off you were) but at the moment we should be thankful that we can enjoy watching Big Vic, and especially his strike partner. In Defoe we have a player who, even at 34, is at the top of his game and is quite simply one of the best strikers the country has produced - a joy to behold. And he "gets" Sunderland - we've got to him. Appreciate him while you can, because we're lucky we've got him. Unfortunately, the curse of Sunderland has struck again, with Paddy McNair out for the season - but at least Larsson and Kirchoff scored as they return from injury. So it was a fairly straightforward swap with Pienaar for McNair and O'Shea for Papy. Lots of Liverpool possession but not much on target, and that was tge story of the first half. No penalty for what looked like a clear foul, but we were still in it at the break. A good chance for Watmore halfway through yhe second period should have seen us ahead, but no. Soon after they shot across the goal from our right and we were a goal down. After all that good defensive work, it was very frustrating. Ndong's foul on 90 gave them a second from the spot, and it was a good day spoiled.Not the end of the world, but a win at Swansea is a must.

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