Encouraging signs from Magpies

Tuesday 22nd October 2013 10:25

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa: Sent off against Liverpool

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa: Sent off against Liverpool

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Newcastle FanZoner Sam Winter says there have been encouraging signs from the Magpies this season and believes they are in for a good season.

I don't always find it appropriate to use the disadvantage of having a man sent off as a plausible reason for dropping points, however there was certainly a feeling of "what might have been" as the whistle was blown on a frenetic 2-2 draw between Newcastle and Liverpool on Saturday.

Admittedly as Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa trudged towards the tunnel having hauled down Luis Suarez I was certain he was taking Newcastle's hopes with him. It was an all-too-familiar feeling, when things are going well there is seemingly always something to bring Newcastle United fans back down again.

And things were going very well indeed, leading 1-0 through a howitzer by Yohan Cabaye at an electric St James' Park. But then Yanga-Mbiwa saw red and Steven Gerrard slotted in the resulting penalty, and the "here we go again" dread crept into my mind.

Last season's miserable campaign which culminated in the horrific 6-0 nightmare at the hands of Liverpool was fresh in everybody's minds before this year's fixture, and most likely again at half-time as 10-men Newcastle prepared for the second 45 minutes. Had this been the team that stumbled around the pitch like blind puppies last season I dread to think what may have happened in the second half, but this was a different animal - a different Newcastle United.

Newcastle had certainly shaded the first half, led marvellously by a rejuvenated Cheick Tiote - the captain's armband beaming on his arm. Cabaye's 30-yard strike was magnificent but the build-up play that led to it was equally as good; slick one touch passing and movement, an attacking intensity and a shrewd confidence that has long been missing at St James'Park.

My own confidence levels were threatening to sky-rocket as Tiote and Cabaye dominated the midfield, the Ivorian stifling the England captain.

Newcastle were carrying on from where they left off in the previous game and a half, which made it so frustrating when they were reduced to 10 men. The attacking mentality that had pinned back Lverpool had to be altered to protect the points, particularly after Paul Dummett lived every Geordie dream by putting his club back in front at the Gallowgate end.

One point turned out to be an excellent result, one I would have taken before the game, but I was left slightly disappointed that it wasn't three. For who knows what might have been had Newcastle played out the full 90 minutes with 11 men.

Alan Pardew said it himself after the game, saddened to have not been able to watch what his side could have produced. For it was a very entertaining and hugely promising side on show, one that then showed strong resilience and character to take a draw, something that would't have been possible last season.

The Liverpool game has concluded me to label Newcastle as a "work in progress", a potentially excellent one as well. There are still demons from last season to be banished, that pain will not go away easily, but I feel that they can go a long way to matching the exploits of 2011/12.

Setbacks against Hull City and Everton haven't spiralled, they've served as lessons that Newcastle have learned from and acted upon. Inconsistencies in defence are still there and are not helped by ever-changing centre-half pairings. Mathieu Debuchy was largely excellent at the weekend but was dragged out of position once again before Daniel Sturridge equalised for Liverpool.

But Davide Santon played very well for the first time this season and Mike Williamson continued to impress, underlining the improvement Newcastle are showing bit by bit. And with an attack to once again strike fear into opponents, Newcastle United with 11 men on the field could well be a difficult proposition for opposition sides each week.

To be left disappointed with a draw with an in-form Liverpool is something to be positive about, something to give the club and supporters a determination to press on. And with the Tyne-Wear derby up next, with further recent nightmares to banish, there is no better time for Newcastle United to show just how good they can be.

Follow Sam on Twitter at @SamWinter89 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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