Stoke City 0-0 Newcastle United
FA Cup: Third Round
Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
It was built up as the match that could determine Sam Allardyce’s fate as Newcastle manager; it now holds more significance, but for now at least, Allardyce remains safe.
Meanwhile Stoke, while being pleased in keeping the Premier League outfit at bay, forcing the replay and with it the extra cash needed to boost their attempt in reaching the top flight, will be somewhat disappointed with the goalless draw after playing the better football and having a 67-minute Jon Parkin header cleared off the line – a minute after he arrived as a substitute.
It was an astute tactical decision by Tony Pulis, still under pressure by some Stoke fans despite their current 4th position in the Championship, which was almost enough for Stoke to claim a famous win. Parkin’s intimidating (to say the least) stature was a nuisance for the Newcastle defence, and also caused a goal-mouth mêlée seconds after his headed effort, which Liam Cresswell couldn’t capitalise on.
Parkin came on for Malian international Mamady Sidibe, who looked deeply annoyed at being substituted. He had a right to be, as he was industrious and selfless, and did all he could to try and be inventive in a game that lacked a lot of it.
He used his towering presence to assist with defending, but was also threatening with his vision and through-balls to Ricardo Fuller that constantly questioned Newcastle’s Abdoulaye Faye, who was composed throughout the 90 minutes.
But ominously for Allardyce, Newcastle and Fabio Capello’s England, Michael Owen is a long distance away from his best. The loneliness of being a long distance away from your best showed, as he cut an at-times isolated and beleaguered figure in the cold and wet of Stoke-on-Trent.
Owen was sluggish, rusty, and struggled to generate any sort of basic pace, impetus or threat. On 55 minutes, Owen failed to connect with a clear chance after Steven Taylor’s header hit the post and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen was left stranded. Allardyce eventually gave him the full ninety minutes, but he’s going to need many more not just for his sake, but for his club and Allardyce himself.
Damien Duff, who filled in for the ill James Miller, is also some way off his best; while Mark Viduka had a frustrating evening, with his only decent effort coming after 18 minutes thanks to a Charles N’Zogbia ball into the penalty area. N’Zogbia was the pick of the Newcastle players, and worked extremely hard on the left-hand side to pressurise an occasionally uncertain Simonsen with an array of crosses.
Newcastle were almost saved from an awkward replay as substitute Andrew Carroll’s desperate lunge at an N’Zogbia cross hit the post.
Allardyce looked pleased as the final whistle went, but the tie has now gained even more significance, for a loss at St. James’ would surely signal the premature end of Sam Allardyce.
That’s if it doesn’t happen beforehand, that is.