Club Focus – Newcastle – Hughton loses his unbeaten home record after Blackpool defeat

Newcastle’s encouraging start to the new season suffered a disappointing blow at the weekend with a 2-0 defeat to Blackpool. Despite being on top for long periods of the game the Magpies failed to turn their superiority into goals and were left to rue missed chances. The defeat brings to an end Newcastle’s long unbeaten record at home that has run for over a year. In a game that could potentially become a six-pointer come the end of the season it could be viewed as three crucial points lost.

Blackpool goalkeeper Matthew Gilks was the main difference between the two sides as he produced a succession of top saves to deny Newcastle’s forwards. The former Rochdale and Shrewsbury ‘keeper gave a top class display between the sticks as he thwarted every shot thrown at him. The away side were able to soak up the Magpies’ pressure and always looked dangerous when they broke with pace on the counter attack. At times the Newcastle defence looked shaky as Blackpool’s creative midfield were able to pick holes in the defence for their forwards to exploit.

At the opposite end of the pitch Newcastle sometimes relied too heavily on striker Andy Carroll’s aerial prowess as the only way of breaking the opposition down. Carroll again dominated his defensive opponents but had few opportunities inside the penalty area. From the wide positions Jonas Gutierrez and Wayne Routledge failed to produce many dangerous crosses when in good positions in the final third. With a man advantage in the middle of the park Newcastle did not exploit the extra man as often as they could have done. With three of the summer signings on the bench primed for their debuts it was only Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa who was given a chance to make his bow. The on-loan winger made a lively 20 minute cameo with his direct running and attacking intent.

It was the first time in Chris Hughton’s fledgling managerial career that he has suffered defeat at St James’ Park. But he was not too downbeat about losing to a side that finished a long way behind the Magpies last season. After the game Hughton said: “I think anyone who saw today’s game would probably admit it was an unfair defeat on the possession we had and the chances we had. We have to give them credit, they defended very well and the goalkeeper had an inspired day.

“It wasn’t a good day in front of goal and they’ve reaped the rewards from that. I don’t want to take anything away from Blackpool but it was certainly a game we should have won. However bad this defeat feels, we are four games into the season and we have a long way to go.”

However Hughton admitted that he may look to make some changes going into their next game, away at Everton next weekend. Having named an unchanged side for the fourth time in the league this season there may be some complacency among the players who feel they are guaranteed a place in the team every week. Hughton said: “The players we have managed to bring in during the window are giving us choices. My decision is when to freshen things up a little bit and when to make changes but the most important thing is now that I have options.” Alan Smith and Jonas Gutierrez were both withdrawn in the second half against Blackpool and could both find their places under threat against the Toffees. New signings Cheik Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa have been brought in to add competition for the midfield places and may well get a chance if they impress in training this week. Smith gave away a needless penalty while Jonas had a typically frustrating game on the left wing.

Goalkeeper Steve Harper has revealed that he played against Blackpool despite having suffered a broken nose in Newcastle’s previous game. The injury did not seem to cause Harper too many problems as he produced a fine double save with the scores level at 0-0. But those saves were overshadowed by Gilks’ fine showing at the other end of the pitch. Harper has little else to do in the game with most of the action happening away from his goal. Talking about his injury he said: “I’m just pleased it didn’t smash me on the nose again, having broken it against Wolves. I broke it on the Saturday, and it was put right on the Tuesday, which I wouldn’t recommend! I turned down the local anaesthetic at the hospital – I wouldn’t recommend that either!”

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