Combine a limited & charmless Newcastle side intent on nothing more than disrupting our rhythm with one of the weakest refereeing performances Iâ€™ve seen for a long time and a classic was unlikely on Tuesday afternoon.
The Geordies were possibly the worst team to come to WHL so far this season with Smith, Tiote, Carroll and Barton taking it in turns to play the pantomime villain with the latter finally winning the honour of being singled out by the crowd. He responded by firing free kicks into the stands and carefully placing any number of long balls straight into touch. His comedy little jump of self disgust every time the ball boys scampered after another of his pin point passes only added to the entertainment.
By standing over Van der Vaart, Bale or whoever theyâ€™d recently dumped on the floor and spitting abuse the visitors attempted to wind us up, and it worked. Van der Vaart and Kaboul were at the head of a queue of players intent on letting Barton in particular know what they thought of him. Their frustration with his behaviour reached its peak when following an injury to a Newcastle player, referee Taylor allowed Barton to hoof a drop ball into touch near our corner flag when heâ€™d been instructed to knock it back to Gomes. Rather than take the heat out of the situation by making him do it again, the ref played on and Kaboul flattened the midget miscreant at the first opportunity. Blood presumably still boiling he lost his head completely not long afterwards when Tiote caught him after heâ€™d brought the ball out of defence and off he went.
By then we were a goal ahead. Lennonâ€™s superb (and surprising to be honest) quality low finish after an hour pretty much won a game of few chances. In the first half weâ€™d created little with just a couple of Bale runs causing problems until VdV missed a header and Pav hit both posts with one effort just before half time. Until the game was stretched towards the end clear sights of goal were hard to come by and it was a typical piece of Bale magic that increased our lead with just a few minutes left.
Playing and winning with ten men again gave us a chance to show our character but the fact that weâ€™re well blessed with that quality should come as a surprise to no-one given the number of times weâ€™ve come from behind already this season. What should also be expected by now was another superb exhibition from Luka Modric who capped a man of the match display by clearing off the line in the last minute. It was he who set Bale away for the second goal but more memorable were a couple of his passes to Van der Vaart in the first half. For both he appeared to have eyes in the back of his head as he put the Dutchman into space with carefully angled balls. As many have said Bale and VdV get a lot of the plaudits but Modric has been the real hero in recent weeks.
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