Newcastle v Leeds United 17th September 2021 at St James’ Park

Newcastle A 17th September 2021

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As we headed to the game, traffic was heavy going all the way up the A1, so it felt a good job we were going early. There were other Leeds fans in the pub we stopped at, and it was nice that we were welcomed there as away fans. We arrived at the ground in plenty of time to negotiate all those flights of stairs to the top which I took my time over, but still managed to climb them in under four minutes. It was good catching up with people inside including one lad who had flown up from Cornwall, although outside the ground I was “welcomed” with the words “old bitch” by an older drunk Leeds fan. Thanks for that, although when I challenged him, he said all their lads loved me and mentioned he was one of the Shipley Skins!

Although I’d a good view at the front of the stand, by being in the Gods it is too far away from the pitch for me. There again, it’s a far cry from the ground in the 70s where my first visit was in the Gallowgate End. This wasn’t a ground for the faint hearted, personally having been chased by lads with knives I know how bad things got. Another time we got there early one Boxing Day and went in the Magpie pub beforehand. Not a good idea really but although we got out unscathed, the last couple of lads to get out of the door took a kicking. Scary times.

Team: Meslier, Cooper, Ayling, Firpo, Phillips, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Bamford, Klich, Dallas and James.

Subs: Roberts for James (61), Summerville (making his debut) for Raphinha (67) and Shackleton for Ayling who went off injured (89).

Subs not used: Klaesson, McKinstry, Cresswell, Greenwood, Kenneh, McCarron.

Leeds drew the game 1-1 with Raphinha scoring for Leeds (13).

Attendance: 50,407 with 3,200 Leeds fans.

Referee: Mike Dean.

Booked: Rodrigo, Firpo.

With Struijk’s appeal against his red card turned down, surprise, surprise, it was good to see Bielsa asking for an explanation as to the reasons behind the decision. As no foul was given at the time or a free kick, I won’t change my mind that it was a sending off in the first place. No doubt the explanation will not be given though. Harrison was out with COVID giving Dan James a starting place in the team. With Newcastle under pressure from their fans amid protests, although I never saw anything apart from paper planes being thrown, it wasn’t a surprise that they raised their game when playing us. Regardless of what happens during a game we have to believe we can win.

With Leeds and Newcastle fans singing about Gary Speed, it had the desired effect on us when we took an early lead. Leeds took me by surprise as I was expecting the ball to be passed forward near the penalty area, only to see Raphinha unleash a shot into the goal. With their keeper called into action to save from both Klich and Raphinha, it was then Meslier who produced a save to keep Newcastle out. At times our passing fell well short which gave Newcastle the impetus to attack us and put us under pressure. Leeds should have been awarded a penalty after James was brought down in the box, but the decision wasn’t even referred to VAR. Having seen replays of the incident it looked like they didn’t even touch the ball only James. The game was end-to-end though and until they hit the post, I’d been feeling okay but then my stomach started churning as I was desperate for us to get the points today. As half time neared, they attacked towards our end and as their player kept hold of the ball, he hit a shot that went past Meslier into the net to equalise. If only we’d have kept them out until half time as that was crucial timing for the goal giving them hope. That said, Leeds should have got a second goal at the death from a Leeds counterattack with first Raphinha having a shot blocked, then James, before Firpo blasted the ball over when it should at least have been on target.

As I headed back to my seat at half time, someone shouted for me to take a photo of Jonathan Woodgate who was sat with the Leeds fans at the front of the stands. Josh Warrington was also here although I never saw him. The second half saw Leeds get into some great positions only to see our final shots very weak with no conviction which were picked up by their keeper. We had Meslier to thank when he made a great save to keep them out and made other saves from their scorer. In the end Leeds had to settle for the draw in a game which saw one of our youngsters Summerville, making his first team debut. There are no easy games in this division, and for a neutral fan, it was an enjoyable fan. It was disappointing not to get the win and three points but did gain a point regardless. Coming out of the ground wasn’t as bad this year even though at one point it looked as if it may kick off.

With Fulham on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup I’ve no idea what team will be put out as we feel thin on the ground with players now. Let’s just get the win to give us a feel-good factor and a lift and see what happens then. See you there. LUFC – Marching on Together!