Hands up who thought this was weird?
I am assuming mass raising of virtual hands there, because this was undoubtedly the latest in a list of surreal experiences 2020 has served up.
There might even have been a couple of lessons to learn.
I have to say I was a little shocked to read the snot-nosed bilious commentary from Sheffield United fans summarised on this site earlier in the week, as they apparently used Jonjo Shelvey’s goal in the earlier fixture as carte blanche to launch an assassination on our club/city/selves.
The aloof tone was astonishing in this, as Sheffield’s excellent season so far has been both welcome and commendable, but it seems to have leant weight to an immediate superiority complex for a side that was hoping to complete its second non-relegation season in 28 years of the Premier League and has yet to play ever in Europe. I hope the red carpet was out for our exalted visitors.
If the above is unnecessarily salty I apologise, but the ruckus about the Shelvey goal really p.ssed me off. I am a massive advocate of VAR because it’s not on to lose a game due to some thick-headed dunderwitted knock-kneed a.sehatted semi-blind grudge-retaining excuse for a sh.thouse with a flag deciding he wants you to be blatantly robbed because nobody has ever loved him.
When one such abomination of a linesman tried to rob Newcastle by disallowing fair play at Bramall Lane, the new technology gazumped him. Shelvey’s goal was fair, and Sheffield seem incandescent that they hadn’t been allowed to unfairly benefit. There would have been a right atmosphere if, you know, people had been allowed.
Anyhow, this situation is what it is, and I’m sure I’m not the only dad who played the Father’s Day card to be assured of a steady afternoon in front of the TV. Initially, this seemed alarming as Sheffield had the first five minutes to themselves, rattling in a couple of worrying looking free kicks and suggesting their earlier start (versus Villa midweek) might have increased their sharpness. From about minute six onwards though, there was only one team in the game, and it was the Army of the North, not the Wilderlings.
At first it was a concern that the old problems might emerge. When Joelinton failed to connect with a corner, Saint-Maximin picked up the loose ball and sent a terrific ball onto the penalty spot for a simple tap-in for… no one, as static attacking looked like costing us dearly in spite of the endeavours of our more creative characters.
This fear was increased moments later when fine work from ASM and Almiron released Joelinton one on one with Henderson. With Shelvey busting a gut to give him an option in the box, the Brazilian drew the goalie and picked his shot, which reverted to type as he bimbled a scuffed half shot straight at the keeper.
Fortunately, Joelinton was spared the grief of the many who insist they’re there to “support the team” and this may have had an effect on what was to come…
The second half had promise, with United kicking downhill and Sheffield potentially feeling the effect of their efforts at Villa Park midweek, but the decisive moment that came shortly after the restart, was entirely down to the visitor’s own self-destruction.
Fernandez launched a long ball forward for Joelinton to chase and Blades defender John Egan got himself in an almighty tangle with the striker, clumsily hauling him over. There was a covering defender but an earlier skirmish with Joelinton had seen both Egan and the Brazilian booked, so it was a second yellow for the visiting defender, which by my reckoning makes him only the third opposing player sent off at St James since Clive Bottomley-Beardbottom was sent off for the Wanderers against West End in 1887.*
There’s always a concern you won’t capitalise on a man advantage but United clicked straight into gear. This was helped five minutes later with another absolute gift from Sheffield as Ritchie’s cross was inexplicably fluffed by Enda Stevens, basically nutmegging himself to leave Saint-Maximin with a surprisingly easy opportunity at the back post. Henderson may feel like he was easily beaten at the front post but he was completely wrong footed by the defender’s blunder, and anyway, ASM is mint.
We continued to press, with Saint-Maximin the main outlet on the right. With the Blades getting wise to this, an opportunity was carved out by Danny Rose switching the play to the opposite flank, finding Matt Ritchie in an acre of space to unleash what I believe we call a thunderb.stard of a strike, swerving off the outside of his left foot to beat Henderson.
This is the point where I started to think about our role in all this.
If 50 thousand people had been in this ground the tension would have been tangible, every chance we’d have stressed them into hanging on for a 2-1 win. Instead, Joelinton, free from the recriminations of the easily angered, played Almiron in on the left then went pelting into the box to get on the end of Miggy’s centre and register Premier League goal number two. About time mind.
I feel like I have to clarify any hostility to the home crowd.
I love the vast majority of the substance of any Newcastle crowd but we all know who I’m getting at. Everyone knows the miserable old sh.thouses, who sit stony faced and silent during any rousing song and p.ss off early to beat the traffic, but unquestionably find their voice when some player they don’t like the look of doesn’t reach a through ball 40 yards in front of him.
Ayoze Perez was a prominent target, but there have been many down the years, although I am confident none of them have been the waiter their wife persistently sh.gged to create the source of this internalised anger. If our players exhibit a sense of freedom that fires us up the table, I would honestly question the extent of damage this misguided frustration brings.
Up the table may very well be the way we look, as the gap to relegation was committed to an insurmountable 11 points, whereas this shaky Sheffield side occupy the last remaining Europa spot a mere six points away.
With two of the bottom three up next in our Premier League fixtures, we should be pushing to see how far this season can go, not looking over our shoulder.
If the team continues to thrive, maybe the role of the sour old sh.thouse in the crowd should be seriously examined in the grave new world. Really though, get that takeover done.
(*After some Huddersfield player last year and the sending off of Dennis Wise here for Chelsea when I was 13, which I can never ever forget.)
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Sheffield United 0 – Sunday 21 June 2pm
Saint-Maximin 55, Ritchie 69, Joelinton 78
Red card for Egan 50
Possession was Sheff Utd 54% Newcastle 46%
Total shots were Sheff Utd 7 Newcastle 12
Shots on target were Sheff Utd 1 Newcastle 8
Corners were Sheff Utd 4 Newcastle 2
Referee: David Coote
Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Rose, Hayden, Shelvey (Schar 85), Ritchie (Yedlin 90+2), Almiron (Lazaro 85), Joelinton (Carroll 79), Saint-Maximin (Bentaleb 79)
Darlow, Gayle, Muto, Krafth
(Instant NUFC fan / writer reaction to 3-0 win – Read it HERE)
(Watch official match highlights from Newcastle 3 Sheffield United 0 HERE)
(Chris Wilder blames key decision for 3-0 defeat – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf