Rating the Newcastle United Players in the 2-1 Loss to Fulham
Going into this game, Newcastle United were without an away win in 2012, while Fulham were without a win of any kind in seven games. The stage was set for a fixture that promised a battle rather than entertainment, but the spectators were actually treated to an exciting, open fixture that could have gone either way.
Newcastle had snapped their four-game losing streak in the Premier League only to lose to Bordeaux in the Europa League, and Fulham overran them in the first half. The Toon were lucky to go into half time only a goal behind, but came out strongly in the second half to dominate possession.
However, it was not to be their day and Fulham came away with the points on the back of an impressive midfield and a strong performance from Dimitar Berbatov.
Let's move on to rating the Toon players in what turned out to be another disappointing night for fans travelling from Tyneside.
Goalkeeper and Defenders
The Newcastle goalkeeper was unlucky with the goal and cannot be blamed, however, he stayed on his feet well when Dmitar Berbatov was through immediately after and made an excellent save.
The second half brought about a repeat of that scenario, and Krul again came out on top. However, he was beaten soon after as Hugo Rodallega connected with a Damien Duff free kick to power a header in from six yards.
If you were being harsh, you could say that Krul could have come for the cross himself, but it was a difficult ball to defend, curling across the defence in such a way to make it difficult to judge. 8/10
Simpson struggled early on, frequently caught out of position and generally looking unsure. He was rescued by Fabricio Coloccini on a couple of occasions, but grew in stature as the first half gave way to the second, despite being under a lot of pressure.
Simpson was effective on the overlap, linking up with Hatem Ben Arfa to deliver crosses into the box. Unfortunately, these crosses weren't particularly threatening or accurate, often wasting possession at the end of promising build-up play. 6/10
Williamson has often been exposed this season, and this game was no exception.
He was certainly unlucky to see his attempted block end up in his own net, but he also made some poor challenges that arose as a result of constant Fulham pressure in the first half. Williamson was a shaky presence in a defence that continues to cause headaches for his manager. 5/10
The captain was by far the most composed of the Newcastle defenders and had a great deal to do in the opening 20 minutes. He could perhaps have stayed on his feet for the challenge that allowed Damien Duff to set up Steve Sidwell's shot that deflected off Williamson into the net, but at the time he looked to have done enough.
Coloccini connected with a powerful header after 30 minutes that looked to be heading in the top corner before John Arne Riise rose to get the ball away. Coloccini also saw a spectacular effort strike the crossbar.
However, he was completely at fault for Fulham's second. Allowing your man to get goal side before a free kick is taken is unforgivable, but that was exactly what Coloccini did. Rodallega duly punished him, and his goal proved to be the winner. 6/10
In terms of getting caught out of position, Santon was probably the worst culprit. Duff had the beating of him, causing both Cheick Tiote and Coloccini to be dragged across to cover. Most of Fulham's success in attack came along that side, which meant Newcastle were unable to wrestle the game back through midfield.
Santon's abilities in attack helped Newcastle out a lot, and he looked a genuine threat going forward, but this shouldn't come at the expense of his defending. Santon has been impressive for a lot of this season, but Fulham were able to get the better of him for the entire first half. He settled down with the switch to 4-4-2 in the second half, and looked much more dependable. 5/10
Midfield and Forwards
Anita is yet to get to grips with the Premier League, with his development being much slower that Alan Pardew would like. He was overrun in the early stages, as Fulham surged forward and looked tentative on the ball, often resulting in a loss of possession.
He looked much better when he had a chance to go forward and got goal side of the Fulham defence on a couple of occasions. He also linked well with Papiss Cisse early in the second half but was unable to capitalise, instead blazing his shot over the bar.
An improved performance, but he needs to take bigger strides in the New Year. 6/10
With Anita struggling, Tiote was asked to do a lot, including keeping both Berbatov and Sidwell quiet as Fulham enjoyed a dominant first half. This was to be a difficult day for him and was only exacerbated by his sloppiness in possession.
It was Tiote who was at fault when Berbatov went clean through, as the Ivory Coast midfielder played a poor ball across the defence to Coloccini, leaving him no chance as Berbatov pounced and bore down on goal. It's also worth noting that Santon was out of position again on this occasion, too, unable to provide cover after his captain committed himself to a challenge. 6/10
Pardew continues to hope that Cisse just needs one more goal in order to return to the form he displayed last season, but tonight's game showed him no closer to doing so. It's not enjoyable to continually point out flaws in his game, but his lack of confidence affects everything he does.
The problem for Cisse on this occasion was his touch, as he sometimes got himself out of an attacking situation by virtue of poor control, as well as failing to provide Demba Ba with the service he needed.
He was unlucky to hit the post after Ba played him through, but was flagged for offside. The decision was marginal, but replays show it was the correct one.
Staying onside has been a problem for Cisse all season, but he had actually been better in this regard before that chance went astray. When he didn't have to rely on himself to carve out an opportunity, he looked better, but he is still some distance away from the player we saw last year. 5/10
Hatem Ben Arfa
Ben Arfa's return to the Newcastle line up provided Pardew with the creative element that Newcastle have been lacking in recent weeks. Whether running at the Fulham defence, keeping the attack alive with excellent ball control or creating mismatches with good link-up play, he looked threatening whenever he was on the ball.
Ben Arfa's goal was no less than he deserved, regardless of whether his shot deflected off Riise before dipping under the crossbar. It was a chance he created out of nothing as he twisted and turned on the edge of the penalty area, and his skill gave him the split-second he needed to get a shot away.
His substitution in the 69th minute had to be about returning him safely from injury, as his performance was a bright spot for the travelling Toon Army. 9/10
Gutierrez suffered as a result of Santon's adventurousness and was often called upon to provide cover for his teammate, as the midfield was stretched and Fulham countered. It was a difficult time that saw him look unsure of how he was supposed to be operating.
When he was allowed to return to an attacking role in the second half, Gutierrez was much better and looked dangerous on the left as he attacked the wing and got some decent balls in. However, his contribution was ultimately in vain and a case of too little, too late. 6/10
Unable to claw Newcastle back as he did so often early in the season, Ba nevertheless looked threatening and was denied by the goalkeeper on at least two occasions in the second half.
Pardew's decision to play a 4-2-3-1 formation was to his benefit, as he found more space and made defenders always aware of his presence. The improvement in Newcastle's football in that second half gave him the opportunity to make life difficult for Fulham, and the openness of the game played to his strengths.
Nevertheless, he was unable to get on the scoresheet and will go back to Tyneside disappointed. 7/10
Shola Ameobi (69 minutes, for Ben Arfa)
Ameobi was mainly restricted to speculative efforts from distance, none of which looked like finding the target. He and Ba also got in each other's way when rising for a header as the game drew to a close. An uninspiring half hour from the elder Ameobi, but one that also saw him win some aerial battles. 6/10
Gael Bigirimana (86 minutes, for Tiote)
Sylvain Marveaux (86 minutes, for Anita)
Too little time to really make an impact on the game, although Marveaux played a useful ball into the box, and Bigirimana linked with Ba on one occasion.