City and their more illustrious opponents Newcastle shared the spoils at a packed St James’ Park.
Playing the North-East giants for the first time in 14-years, City gave a good account of ourselves to claim a very credible point against the under-achieving Toon superstars.
The only change from the side that turned over Blackpool in midweek was in goal, with Dean Gerken replacing Adriano Basso, who had popped his groin in the warm-up.
The Geordies, playing in front of the third biggest crowd in the country on the weekend, started brightly.
Marlon Harewood, making his first start since arriving on loan from Aston Villa, could only fire against the post after being slipped in by pacy striker partner Peter Lovenkrands on 9 minutes. Alan Smith could only blaze the rebound over the bar.
Six minutes later, Cole Skuse tried his luck from the edge of the box only for his crashing volley to be deflected narrowly over Steve Harper’s cross-bar.
Lee Johnson was unlucky not to run onto a wayward Danny Simpson back pass and Nicky Maynard narrowly missed the target after a surging run into the box.
City certainly weren’t being overrawed by their impressive surroundings and were being superbly backed by the nigh-on 3,000 travelling hoards.
Gerken tipped away a hooked effort from Alan Smith as half-time approached and it was to set the tone for the early stages of the second half.
The former Darlington keeper pulled off two tremendous, point-blank saves on 60, first denying Danny Guthrie volley before Kevin Nolan’s six-yard header was pushed clear.
Newcastle’s upped the tempo and saw their best chance fall to England Under-21 defender Steven Taylor, who looked on in disbelief as Gerken firstly tipped his header onto the bar only for Lovenkrands to fire the rebound back onto the bar!
But the game’s major talking point arrived 15 minutes from time.
Half-time replacement Jamie McCombe was hopelessly done for pace by Harewood who was scythed down in the box by the clumsy defender.
Your’s truely turned his back expecting the penalty to be given but much to mine and 43,000 others amazement, referee Graham Salisbury waved away their protests. It was an absolute stone-waller!
The incident seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side as City clung on for a well-earned, if slightly fortuiotous, point.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Harper, Simpson, S. Taylor, Khizanishvili , R. Taylor, Guthrie, Smith, Nolan, Gutierrez (Carroll 65), Harewood, Lovenkrands (Ranger 85).
CITY (4-4-2): Gerken, Orr, Carey, Nyatanga, McAllister (McCombe 46), Elliott, Johnson (Williams 72), Skuse, Sno, Saborio (Haynes 59), Maynard.
REFEREE: Graham Salisbury
Dean Gerken 8
Bradley Orr 7
Usual solid self against his former club. Did a good job on Argentine international Gutierrez.
Jamie McAllister 6
Had his hands full with Guthrie down his side before injury cut his day short.
Lewin Nyatanga 7
Dealt with switch to left-back in his stride though his presence in the middle of the back four was missed as Harewood ran riot second half.
Louis Carey 7
Led from the front again. Positionally sound and not afraid to bring the ball out of defence when allowed to.
Marvin Elliott 6
Put in a good shift down the right side of midfield but we continue not to see the best of him in this role.
Lee Johnson 6
Neat and tidy without the setting the world alight. Anticipation was good and would’ve led to a goal if he was a bit quicker.
Cole Skuse 7
Another one out of position in midfield but he wasn’t afraid to try his luck from distance in an energetic performace down the left side.
Evander Sno 6
Probably not up to his extremely high standards. Few loose touches and stray passes but put in a good shift for the team none-the-less.
Nicky Maynard 6
Was kept quiet for large periods by Steven Taylor but threatened on occasions.
Alvaro Saborio 6
Led the line well but had his work cut out with the centre backs. Not as much of an outlet as he can be.
Jamie McCombe 4
Won his share of headers in the second half but was really lucky to get away without conceding a penalty. Our defence looked notably weaker when he came on.
Danny Haynes 6
Direct running was a threat on the counter but didn’t really have anything to go on.
Neat in the midfield but couldn’t real get a grasp of the tempo in the game with the time he had.
GARY JOHNSON – 7/10
Had us set up to hit on the counter and it worked very well against Newcastle. The enforced sub of McCombe disjointed us a bit in the second half but made sure the boys weren’t in their shells amongst these impressive surroundings.
CHRIS HUGHTON – 6/10
Did all that was asked of him but lacked ideas to really break us down. Will no doubt have moaned his arse off about the blatant penalty.
Good Point, Well Earned
We rode our luck at times, particularly in the second half, but got what we deserved.
I was particularly impressed how Johnson made sure the players weren’t frightened by the opposition or the ground.
Just hope he keeps faith with Gerken for Peterborough as he will rightly take the plaudits for his performance.
Cider Army Invasion
Firstly, all you hear in the media is that the Toon Army are the best fans in the world. Well, on this showing, I was very unimpressed.
Yes, they turned out in numbers but made next to no noise and were comprehensively outsung by ‘little’ Bristol City and the 2,800 who travelled.
Had a great weekend up there though, which is why the report is late. Same again for Boro anyone???