Defeat at Liverpool typical of Newcastle Utd’s season

Referee Phil Dowd gives a red card to Newcastle United's Paul Dummett (right)
Referee Phil Dowd gives a red card to Newcastle United's Paul Dummett (right)

NEWCASTLE United wore grey, not their famous black and white at Anfield. But there weren’t 50 shade of grey in this game. It was anything but drab.

It was also a tale of two halves, much like the club’s season.

Newcastle didn’t do much wrong before the break, when they lead through a Martin Skrtel own goal.

But the team’s performance, much like their season, unravelled in the second half, where two goals from two Steven Gerrard free-kicks - and two sendings off - saw Newcastle beaten 2-1.

The language was colourful too.

Off the field, an offensive banner aimed at Alan Pardew in the away end was confiscated, and Shola Ameobi, shown two yellow cards for dissent, was offensive to referee Phil Dowd.

And a season which had started with so much promise ended with a 10th-placed finish, the result leaving them just two points ahead of Crystal Palace.

It was progress, of a sort.

Newcastle were eight points, and six places, better off than they were a year ago when the last ball was kicked.

United manager Alan Pardew lost leading scorer Loic Remy on the eve of the game to an injury, and Steven Taylor and Massadio Haidara replaced him and Paul Dummett in his starting XI.

The formation - five players strung along the back - suggested Pardew was looking stifle the life out of Brendan Rodgers’s side, just as Chelsea had done late last month.

Newcastle did that in the first half, and played a bit of football too.

United frustrated Liverpool for the first 20 minutes, though Luis Suarez cheekily put the ball in an unguarded net with an attempted quick free kick after being brought down wide on the right.

But Dowd, to the relief of goalkeeper Tim Krul and Newcastle, ordered the kick to be retaken.

Seconds later, the ball was in the net at the Kop end of the pitch.

United broke upfield and Yoan Gouffran’s left-wing cross was inadvertently sliced into his own net by Skrtel, with the strike United’s first away from home since March 1.

Emboldened, Pardew’s side pressed for a second goal.

The hard-running Gouffran, put through by Ameobi, forced a save from former Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and Liverpool’s fans became increasingly agitated as the half wore on.

Newcastle, after going ahead, took control of a game they had been expected to lose comfortably.

As the break neared, news filtered through from Eastlands, where Manchester City had taken the lead through Samir Nasri.

The knowledge that the title was almost certainly beyond them visibly drained the life out of some of the Liverpool team, despite the best efforts of the home crowd, who had raucously welcomed their team on to the field

But Vincent Kompany’s second-half goal for City quietened the Kop, who saw ball after ball headed and blocked before a few mad, bad minutes cost United.

The team’s performance started to come apart at the seams in the 63rd minute when Vurnon Anita, previously smart with and without the ball, brought down Raheem Sterling on the right side of the Liverpool box.

Gerrard’s deep free kick was acrobatically knocked in at the far post by Daniel Agger.

Gouffran gave away another free kick in a slightly deeper position, and Gerrard again found a man, this time Daniel Sturridge, at the far post three minutes later.

Ameobi was shown two quick-fire yellow cards in the aftermath of the goal for dissent, having verbally abused Dowd before the restart.

It was out of character, and not the ending Ameobi had hoped for his career at the club

And substitute Paul Dummett was also bizarrely, and unjustly, shown a red card for accidentally catching Luis Suarez with a flailing leg after challenging the striker.

While Ameobi is likely to be elsewhere when next season kicks off, Pardew will most likely be back, despite the protests against him that have dominated the past few weeks.

A similar improvement over the coming 12 months would see United challenge for a European place.

But Newcastle fans, it seems, will take some convincing their team can move forward with Pardew at the helm.