Newcastle's loss last week to the Bolton Wanderers was expected. What wasn't expected was the loss of temper and discipline by Newcastle's defense, as Milke Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini were both suspended for violent behavior on the pitch. That brought the number of 'banned' players to three, including midfielder Joey Barton.
Newcastle have surprising depth this season - when players are healthy and not serving a suspension. So following a reshuffling of defense, which included a start for the elder Sol Campbell and a timely return from injury by Steven Taylor, Newcastle hosted the defending Premiership champions, Chelsea, who are occupied with various problems of their own.
And true to their form nearly all season, Newcastle outperformed against a superior opponent, and earned a precious point in a 1-1 draw. Newcastle could have gone up 2-0 early had either Steven Taylor or Shola Ameobi finished their shots in the same opportunity. Ameobi's chance in particular appeared to be an easy 'garbage goal' as all he had to do was send the ball into the empty left side of the net. But unfortunately, Shola was unable to live up to his reputation as a garbage man, and sent the ball wide right into the side netting. But Newcastle were quickly given another golden opportunity when a disastrous backwards pass by the Brazilian national, Alex, resulted in an empty net goal by Newcastle's number 9, Andy Carroll It was Carroll's ninth goal this season.
That early goal lifted Newcastle's spirits. And they needed motivation and strength going forward, as they survived a heartbreaking equalizer late in the first half, and were on the ropes during much of the second half. But Newcastle held on for their point.
Inconsistency is a theme for this season, but another theme that keeps cropping up in the post game interviews and analyses is "character." Newcastle has it in spades this season, and it's the reason they are going to earn another season in the Premiership next summer.
It won't get any easier for them as fall turns into winter. They won't get to play a weaker team until January. Next week, they travel to West Brom, who had a slow start (and a weak offense as I mentioned two weeks ago), but have become stronger and will certainly be a formidable opponent. They scored a bucket of goals last week against the Toffees and should be riding high when Newcastle visit their ground on Sunday December 5th.
Now on to the more seasoned pundits:
Shiteseats: "Chelsea probably deserved their goal, and they stepped up the pressure in the second half, with Tim Krul making various good stops to save his teammates."
Blog on the Tyne: "In games that you would put money on them winning, they've failed. And in games when you would avoid stick for keeping your money in your pocket, they've gone out and surprised us."