Match Report: Newcastle United 1-1 Sunderland - A Performance To Be Proud Of

Nicklas Bendtner was so nearly a hero today, but all the lads can be very proud of themselves.

Such a strange day, and a strange game to match. All the way to kick-off I was feeling calm, confident and relaxed. Then as soon as the teams stepped out on to the Sports Direct Arena pitch, bricks were being deposited in the lavatory.

So much to look back on, so join us for our full recap of the match, complete with ratings and various other thoughts and opinions...

It was widely speculated pre-match that Fraizer Campbell would get the nod in a 4-4-2 formation, but Martin O'Neill sprung a surprise and started Nicklas Bendtner ahead of the new England striker, at the expense of Jack Colback. Colback found himself on the bench alongside a returning Craig Gordon and David Vaughan. After worries all week, Phil Bardsley was deemed fit enough to start, and reclaimed his right-back role.

It was important we started the game well and settled. It didn't really pan out like that initially, as Lee Cattemole was sloppy in possession and nearly gifted the ball to Demba Ba, Moments later the 'Boro born midfielder was in the book for a tackle on Cheik Tiote. 40 seconds had elapsed.

Thankfully we picked up a bit after the initial worries, and started to play a bit of football. Seb Larsson tried a succession of corners and freekicks to no avail, before breaking into the Newcastle area fantastically. The swede laid the ball back just begging to be knocked in but Bendtner had gone beyond it and Craig Gardner was too far way from the action.

Certainly though, with ten minutes on the clock, things were levelling up a little, even in the card count as Yohann Cabaye went in the book for a foul on Phil Bardsley.

Bookings continued to flow for both sides as Mike Dean went around looking for anyone who didn't already have one, two of which came in a flashpoint between James McClean and Danny Simpson. Simpson near his own byline, was charged down by McClean. Foul? Yes. Yellow card? No. A melee ensued and after all the handbags, both were booked for their part in it.

Then it happened. As much as I'd bemoaned Mike Dean he made a cracking call to award us a penalty. Mike Williamson was all over Turner, and the spot-kick was awarded. Bloody chuffing hell, or words to that effect.

Up stepped Nicklas Bendtner, as if nerves were not shredded enough already, the last thing we wanted was an out-of-sorts striker in a face mask looming over the kick. Bendtner kept his cool, and tucked it low to Tim Krul's right.

1-0. I'll not repeat what I said in the comfort of my own home, but the neighbours would have been well within their rights to think there was a domestic going on (there wasn't, honest).

The Dane nearly made it two soon after after a cracking turn and shot was saved well by Krul down low, and after half an hour of play you'd have said we were comfortably on top of things. Of course, there was still an hour for this to change.

We kept up a good spell of pressure as Craig Gardner won a corner, and the ball spent plenty of time in the Newcastle third, but no test of Krul was forthcoming, at which point the hosts picked up a little. Strangely it took this long for Newcastle to have what was their best chance to date, as Coloccini tested Mignolet with a diving header from a corner, but the Belgian stopper got a good fist on it and danger was cleared.

As the hosts turned the screw a little and we battled with time hoping to get in at 1-0 up, Cabaye's shot was deflected wide, and from the resulting corner Demba Ba rattled the crossbar from inside the six-yard box. In stoppage time there was a penalty appeal turned down, and replays showed O'Shea beat Ba to the ball.

Ryan Taylor lined up a freekick form 30+ yards, and whilst in any other game you wouldn't be overly bothered, this is the Tyne-Wear derby, take nothing for granted. Sheer elation when the ball sailed harmlessly over Simon Mignolet's crossbar.

If your heart was in your mouth, it was safe to take it out as the half-time whistle went, and we held a valuable lead.

Newcastle made changes to start the second half with Hatem Ben Arfa coming on to replace Davide Santon, and it was the home side who started proceedings on the front foot.

In fact it was Ben Arfa's first meaningful contribution to win a corner off Kieran Richardson, leading to chances for Demba Ba (twice) and Papiss Cisse, Thankfully all of which were squandered, but it was clear to see they'd had a rocket up the backside from Alan Pardew, and spent the entirety of the opening ten minutes camped inside our half. Strong, team-orientated defending meant that to this point no equalising goal was forthcoming.

This left us dangerous on the counter-attack, and Craig Gardner wasted a glorious chance when put through by Nicklas Bendtner, James McClean's rebound was blocked on the line by Tim Krul.

It had been a while since we saw anything from Mike Dean, and then he made a vicious comeback. Stephane Sessegnon did indeed lash-out towards Cheik Tiote, but Tiote didn't half make a meal of things on a hit which didn't even land on his face. Obviously Sessegnon should have known better than to do it, but Tiote's theatrics made for only one outcome.

With the home side still pressing, the remaining half an hour was to be a very long one.

Cheik Tiote seemed determined to rub things in our faces further has he tried speculative efforts from here, there and everywhere, and none of them testing Mignolet. There was also an appeal for a penalty as Demba Ba jumped with Michael Turner. The ball certainly struck the hand of Turner, but he was being heavily leaned on by the Senegalese striker. Perhaps small justice for the sending off.

With twenty to play changes were rung. Nicklas Bendtner was replaced by Fraizer Campbell having put in a great shift up front on his own. Jack Colback also replaced a visibly shattered Seb Larsson. Worryingly, it was time for Shola Ameobi to enter the frame at the expense of an anonymous Papiss Cisse. Ben Arfa also went close having skipped away form Richardson and Turner into the box, however Mignolet stayed strong.

Further appeals for handball were raised by the home side, and again it hit O'Shea clearly in the chest. In this battle of defence versus attack, we were holding our own, just, with fifteen to play. Nerves at Roker Report Towers all over the bloody place, but ten strong souls on the Sports Direct Arena pitch.

Newcastle were pressing, and pressing, and pressing, even Tim Krul was collecting clearances in our half. Eventually they got a penalty. Fraizer Campbell with a fairly unnecessary lunge on Shola Ameobi, and it was a stonewaller. I guess this is 1-1, and it could have been justified for the pressure Newcastle had.

Up stepped Demba Ba... SAVED. Simon Mignolet with an incredible save down low to his right and to have the ball go out for a corner. Incredible scenes. The rain, Newcastle's talisman striker taking the penalty, and saved by the foreign keeper. Simon Mignolet, a long with Tommy Sorensen before him was ten minutes from becoming a Sunderland legend.

With minutes to play, mere minutes, hearts were broken by You Know Who. The ball into the box was flicked by Mike Williamson, Demba Ba possibly offside, Ameobi not offside, Wayne Bridge on as a substitute in no mans land, and our eternal nemesis was there to slot in from a yard or two out.

Heartbreaking.

It could have been worse when Mike Williamson wriggled free in the area, however Michael Turner managed to pinch the ball off his toes and scramble clear.

The full-time whistle blew, and had I been offered a draw before the match I'd have taken it, having got one, it just felt like a kick in the balls, added too with Lee Cattermole's red card after the final whistle for getting mouthy with Mike Dean.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (7), Bardsley (7), Turner (8), O'Shea (9), Richardson (6), Larsson (7), Cattermole (6), Gardner (8), McClean (6), Sessegnon (6), Bendtner (9)

Subs Used: Campbell (6), Colback (6), Bridge (5)

Man Of The Match: John O'Shea - It could well have been Bendtner, and possibly would have if it turned out he'd scored the winning goal. However, the back line defended incredibly throughout, and John O'Shea was simply a huge presence at the back, getting boots and heads to everything. O'Shea epitomised a great team performance.

Aaaarrrrghhhhh, bollocks.

So, so close to a famous victory, but it just wasn't to be. Fighting through the adversity of Mike Dean's card-happiness, star man Sessegnon sent off, penalty calls. It just wasn't to be.

Overall though it was an encouraging performance, and a game where when we sit back, we can be proud of the team. Proud of the performance put in, the commitment and passion. For the first time in a fair bit, we didn't just roll over.

Newcastle may have snatched a draw at the death in their cup final today, we'll win ours in May.

KTF.

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