ONSIDE: Newcastle United grateful for small mercies after bore draw


SO you thought the start of the football season was all about spectators filled with renewed optimism watching new signings perform under sunny skies?

Think again if you are a Newcastle United fan.

No signings, no sunshine and no hope was the order of the day at St James’s Park on Saturday.

You can even sprinkle in the added ingredients of no goals and no shots on target.

While Newcastle’s well-documented problems were plain to see both on and off the pitch, the 0-0 draw with an average West Ham United side was not without plus points.

Vurnon Anita enjoyed perhaps his best performance for the Magpies in a rare start in his favoured central midfield slot.

That’s the same slot as the apparently wantaway Yohan Cabaye used to fill.

Cabaye’s big mate, Mathieu Debuchy, culpable for three of Manchester City’s four goals in last Monday’s Eastlands drubbing, also showed welcome glimpses of the form we had witnessed the full back produce before his arrival on Tyneside.

Yet there were still only scraps for the muted Papiss Demba Cisse and co to feed upon up front.

Or not as the case turned out to be when Yoan Gouffran was presented with an open goal just seconds from the end and less than six yards out.

As gaping as the opportunity was, it is worth quickly remembering that the same player effectively scored the goal which kept Newcastle up back in May when he calmly slotted home from around 20 yards after some comic capers from the Queens Park Rangers defence.

While I would not want to rely on him every week up front, he looks a capable and willing squad player and should not be dismissed on the terraces on the back of one dire miss.

Stick him – and the majority of Saturday’s line-up for that matter – back in the team for Wednesday’s Capital One Cup trip to basement side Morecambe.

Manager Alan Pardew can ill afford to start too many fringe players and risk his fourth cup defeat in less than three years to lower league sides.

Never mind Saturday’s admittedly vital home game against Fulham.

Newcastle do not have the Europa League to juggle this season and so little over a week into the new season can afford to allow their millionaires’ brigade to dirty their boots by playing three matches in eight days.

Isn’t that what they are paid so handsomely for in the first place?