Aston Villa (h) Premier Reserve League
51 mins Balaban shot 0-1
Tommy Craig commented:
"We might have lost but I was still delighted with the way we performed. We really worked our socks off.
"I think a draw would have been a fairer result on the night. The attitude and the application were both right and if we continue to play like that then we will win more games than we lose.
"It was difficult to break Villa down but credit to them as they defended quite deeply. We had a lot of pace in the side but, as the first team are also finding out, a lot of teams are sitting deep to try and nullify that threat.
"Now, despite all our pace at both levels, it's a problem we will have to overcome."
Villa's loud-mouthed and foul-mouthed Scottish coach Kevin
Newcastle's Premier Reserve League surrendered their unbeaten status at the third attempt on Monday evening, but in doing so gave the sort of committed display sadly lacking from recent first team games.
Villa took the lead on 33 minutes despite an encouraging first half hour from United. Chopra was wrongly penalised in the centre circle and a quick break found us wanting as Croatian striker Bosko Balaban (pictured) fired a ten yard shot through Harper's legs from the left side of our area.
On the stroke of half-time the visitors went 2-0 up when Stephen Cooke beat Ramage on the right hand side of our box and centred for Steven Davis to head down, his effort eluding Harper and going in on the first bounce.
Inspired and marshalled by the hard-working and vocal Steve Caldwell, Tommy Craig's men reacted to their interval deficit by grabbing a foothold in the game when Darren Ambrose pulled one back after 57 minutes, slipping the ball past the keeper from close range after Brittain and Orr linked up down the right to create the chance.
United thereafter threatened an equaliser until the very end of the five minutes extra time added on to the second half.
That additional allowance was mostly as a result of a hamstring injury sustained by Steve Harper as he fought to clear his lines on the hour mark. He was helped from the field in obvious pain and replaced by Academy 'keeper Adam Bartlett.
Aside from the scoreline and the injury to our second-choice 'keeper, the biggest disappointment for the watching Sir Bobby (and Alan Shearer) was the unproductive ninety minutes contributed by LuaLua.
With a forward line of the Congo captain, Lewis Guy and Michael Chopra not presenting the greatest of aerial threats, the emphasis was always going to be on passing and movement. Unfortunately for all his energy, Lua largely opted out of the former and was well tracked when it came to the latter.
With United again opting for a trio of central defenders, both Cave on the left and Brittain on the right saw plenty of the ball and looked to link up with the attack wherever possible. Ambrose was utilised in a central role and perhaps heartened by his goal, looked more comfortable on the ball as the game went on, bringing it out of defence with no little skill on a couple of occasions.
Back to the man of the match though, Steve Caldwell giving himself a good workout before linking up with the Scotland senior side.
He was behind much of what was good about Newcastle, cajoling and advising the less-experienced Carr and Ramage alongside him and coming close to a goal himself with a couple of headers from set pieces.
Caldwell also hit a succession of accurate long balls out of defence to initialise attacking moves - something sadly lacking in recent weeks from the first XI.
Good then, but not good enough against a lively Villa side who often cause us problems at this level. Nothing wrong with the effort though and decent entertainment for a small crowd on a rare fine night at Kingston Park.
PS - Steven Taylor had been in the published starting
side, but tweaked a hamstring and was removed before kickoff, Lewis Guy stepping
up from the bench into the number 4 shirt.