I SUPPOSE it was inevitable in the end.
Once again Newcastle United have stayed in Europe longer than Manchester United.
The question now is for how long.
The Magpies play rouble-rich Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday night in Moscow in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.
The Russians’ 100 per cent record at home in the competition this season suggests that the best Alan Pardew’s side can hope for is damage limitation until the return clash.
Yet that same record includes a mere 1-0 victory over a mainly reserve Liverpool team back in November.
So why should a supposedly stronger Newcastle line-up be afraid this evening?
Few people gave United much chance in the second leg of their last trip behind the former Iron Curtain to face Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv a fortnight ago.
But, aside from the obligatory defensive siege in the last 15 minutes, they largely controlled the game and ultimately deserved their 1-0 win.
The trick is not to get too cavalier if they do fall behind early doors.
A narrow defeat would be no embarrassment and should set up a cracking atmosphere for the deciding leg at St James’s Park a week today.
Hopefully by then Newcastle will also be three points closer to securing their top flight status.
Given a choice between victory tonight or against Stoke City on Sunday and it is the Premier League which wins every time.
With six of the bottom eight playing each other on Saturday, Newcastle are very likely to be closer to the drop come kick-off than they are today.
While the visit of Tony Pullis’s long-ball merchants may not excite too many home fans, I have to admit it is the first match I diary when the fixtures come out in June.
When else can I and my fellow mountaineers at the top of Milburn Stand Level 7 see the ball at eye level?
– GAVIN LEDWITH