Thursday 22 March 2018

Toon Army fire blanks as Carroll's supply line cut off

Newcastle 0 Fulham 0

Louise Taylor at St James' Park

As befits a team who play in black and white, Newcastle do not really do shades of grey. Consistency seems anathema to Chris Hughton's side.

Turn up at St James' Park and you might see them smash five or six goals past an Aston Villa or a Sunderland. Alternatively, they could just as easily stutter to an unscheduled defeat or, as was the case yesterday, a disappointing draw.

"Our home form has been indifferent, it's something we need to address," acknowledged Hughton. "We were just lacking that bit in front of goal but it's not a bad point against well organised opponents."

Having been suffocated by Sam Allardyce's 3-6-1 formation as Blackburn won here last Wednesday, Kevin Nolan Co. were thwarted in contrasting, easier on the eye fashion here, as Fulham delighted in out-thinking and out-passing their hosts.

If Mark Hughes had been two decades younger and on the pitch instead of in the away technical area, the visitors would surely have prevailed. While Moussa Dembele consistently ruffled Hughton's defence -- on one occasion hitting the bar -- and there were brief flashes of the fit-again Andrew Johnson's change of pace, openings proved stubbornly elusive.

It was that sort of afternoon. With Danny Murphy and Simon Davies dominant in central midfield and Andy Carroll often getting small change out of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes, Newcastle chances were similarly few and far between. Perhaps Hughton's team needed to modify their growing habit of hitting high balls in Carroll's direction and begin bringing his devastating left foot into things more. Aided by the absence of Newcastle's suspended Joey Barton, Fulham cleverly rationed Carroll's service.

"Andy Carroll is a handful but needs quality balls into the box," said Hughes. "We were able to keep him outside the box for long periods, that's the key to keeping him quiet."

Hughton's admirable refusal to allow Mike Ashley, Newcastle's owner, to make him appoint a new assistant to replace Colin Calderwood, now managing Hibs, from within has resulted in his workload becoming almost overwhelming. At Newcastle, impasses are not always restricted to the pitch.


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