Newcastle United missed out on the opportunity to break the record for most consecutive wins in the Championship as they were held to a draw by Barnsley.
A win looked on the cards until the Tykes equalised with a late goal, but on reflection a draw was a fair result. If Newcastle had the best of the first half, then Barnsley were the better team in the second period. The Yorkshire based side have been on a good run of form of late so Newcastle won’t feel too disappointed to have dropped two points. They still remain in a strong position in the Championship and their lead is theirs to throw away. Manager Chris Hughton again shuffled his pack before the game as he made some surprise changes to the starting XI.
Disgraced youngster Andy Carroll was recalled to play as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands were both dropped down to the bench and were also joined by Marlon Harewood and Nile Ranger. There were certainly plenty of attacking options for Hughton to fall back on as they chased the game late on. There was also a recall for utility player Ryan Taylor, who despite offering good service from out wide, has regularly been overlooked in recent games. Until the month of December Hughton has looked for consistency in his line up and has really only made changes if they are necessary. With the busy festive period nearly upon us, Hughton has looked to rotate if possible, especially in the forward positions. It is a policy that can be risky, but if it avoids burnout it is no bad thing.
Carroll, after missing the Coventry game, must have been keen to make a positive impression after his recent bad publicity. He went some way towards repaying his manager’s faith with two assists in a battling performance. Despite being up against experienced man-mountain Darren Moore Carroll held his own and won two flick-ons to set up the goals. He was booked late on for a clash with Moore to pick up his fifth booking of the season. This means he will miss the derby match against Middlesbrough. Another striker, Marlon Harewood did his claims for a possible loan extension no harm with a well taken goal. Harewood’s goal was a reminder of his quality, which is often disguised by a poor first touch and a look of disinterest at times. There is a case both for and against him staying on Tyneside which Hughton will soon have to decide either way.
The atmosphere at Oakwell was not dissimilar to a home match, with Newcastle fans taking up a third of the ground. The 7,000 travelling supporters directed a number of their chants towards the director’s box where Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias were watching the match. Despite excellent results on the pitch there has been no let up in the animosity towards the Ashley regime. Hughton believed that the extra away fans had a positive effect on the team. He said:: “They were outstanding. The effect it has is a real appreciation from this group of lads on a cold Saturday afternoon just before Christmas that 7,000 can turn up for a game knowing there’s a home game on Sunday. They’re massive, it works both ways. The supporters are demanding and expect us to do well but we have a group of lads who fully appreciate what they can give us. The players feed off that but it’s special away from home because the opposition support is vocal and you know you’re up against it. So to have that support is special.”
Hughton is looking to strengthen his squad rather than weaken it when the transfer window opens in the New Year. Over the weekend both Steven Taylor and Andy Carroll were linked with moves away from Newcastle to Premier League clubs. Although the powers-that-be at Newcastle are yet to make any noises on what will happen in January, it would appear silly to sell players with the wealth of the Premier League still in sight. But with Mike Ashley anything is possible and there is no guarantee players will not be sold. Hughton said on the matter: “I can’t imagine where that has come from or who dreamed that one up. The truth is I do not anticipate anybody leaving in January. Nobody will be going from my point of view, and we are working to bring people in more than anything else at this club. We certainly don’t want to sell Andy Carroll or Steven Taylor.”