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Season 2003-04
Leicester (a) Premiership
Date: Friday 26th December 2003, 3.00pm

Venue:  Walkers Stadium

Conditions: Sunshine rapidly gave way to scattered showers that got progressively heavier after kick-off.

Away end: 32 Programme 4.00

Leicester City

1 - 1 Newcastle United


Half time: Leicester  0  Newcastle  0

67 mins Yet again a ball through the middle was dealt with poorly - but why was it left to Hughes and Bernard to deal with? Dickov took charge of the situation and controlled the ball before lashing it past Given. Another defensive collapse to go along with the brain failures that cost us goals against both Wolves and Liverpool - no wonder Robson has grey hair 0-1

90 mins Bernard scampered down the left and curled over an excellent cross that Ambrose almost connected with. The ball fell to Jenas who hit a decent shot goalwards. Walker saved but Ambrose was on hand to head into the unguarded goal before running to the celebrating away corner nearby.  1-1

Full time: Leicester  1  Newcastle 1

We Said

Sir Bobby commented:

"It wasn't a classic, I have to admit. There was a swirling wind, which didn't help really, the conditions, but you've got to play to the conditions.

"I thought both teams played from back-to-front too much. It was too much long-ball for me. The team that got the ball down and tried to pass it in sequence was going to be the one to win it.

"At half-time, we just said 'It's there for us to win, but we've got to be better'. Their danger didn't come from open play, it came from corners and free-kicks, and we dealt with it.

"As long as we did that, I didn't see any reason why they were going to score against us, so when the goal came, it was a surprise."

About our goalscorer:

"He can get a goal, Ambrose. He knows where the goal lies and he's got a good shot, right and left foot, although he scored in the air today.

"He gets in the box - he nearly got us a late winner last week. He almost got on the end of LuaLua's cross.

About Bernard after Robert decked him with a wild swipe at the ball:

"He's a bit groggy and didn't quite know where he was. He did well for the goal - I told him 'You should get knocked out more often!'

"He's all right. He's been checked by the Leicester doctor and we just need to keep an eye on him."

They Said

Micky Adams said:

"I'm certainly disappointed to come so close to getting a win in the Premier League, but not surprised. Without being too disrespectful to my players, I thought they gave me everything they've got again.

"But we've got ourselves into so many positions this season of winning games and we haven't seen it through. That's happened to us a few times this year.

"But it's very very difficult to be critical of a group of players who have given you everything.

"What I want is to be competitive at this level and sometimes, that's really hard if you haven't spent millions of pounds. But at least we've given teams a game, we're gaining their respect. I'm sure Sir Bobby will be honest with his assessment and say that's probably as hard a game as Newcastle have had this season.

"There's no panic. I said to the players 'Don't even worry about it. We're not expected to win games of football at this club anyway'.

"There's no panic from Micky Adams or any of my staff - not even the supporters. They understand.

"We keep going, and as long as we keep giving teams a hard game, I'll be more than satisfied with that.

"Two years ago, we went down like 'We're down'. We weren't competitive, we'd given up the ghost.

"But there's no sign of that here."

About Steve Howey's early exit:

"I don't think it was even a gamble. He came off last Saturday against Everton but trained on the Sunday, trained on the Monday, all this week. It's a mystery to me, that one."


Attendances for all competitions home and away topped 1,000,000.

Darren Ambrose
scored his first Premiership goal for the club as he made his 8th league appearance for the club - all from the bench. In doing so he became only the 6th different scorer in the Premiership for us this season along with: Shearer, Ameobi, Robert, Bernard and Speed. In 2002/03 that figure was 11.

For Ambrose it was a case of history repeating itself, as he'd come off the bench for Ipswich Town on Boxing Day 2002 to grab a last minute (actually 93rd minute) goal for the Tractor Boys - on that occasion though it was the winner in a 2-1 success.

Our first visit to the Walkers Stadium.


Well at least it wasn't at the public urinal formerly known as Filbert Street....and we somehow salvaged a point in the dying embers of a match that only spasmodically flickered into life.

For those toon supporters though who'd dragged themselves from post-yuletide slumbers to be here, in most respects this game was a continuation of the eminently forgettable display at Charlton just under a week previously.

Again though, we were incapable of beating a struggling side that in theory we should be well ahead of in terms of class, talent and sheer footballing ability. More frustratingly, this mediocre Foxes team with half-remembered fringe players from other clubs combined with our underachievers to serve up a football contest as dreary as the weather. And all for the bargain price of 32 - verging on the scandalous, frankly. 

Having said that though, in a league that's conjured up a series of unexpected results this season, to have emulated the result that Arsenal gained on this ground is no disgrace. It's just that it was blatantly obvious that on this occasion, Leicester were there for the taking and apparently incapable of punishing us - even with Sir Lesley leading the home attack.

As we had at the Valley, we began with at least a semblance of forward momentum and threatened Walker's goal on a number of occasions without genuinely creating a clear goalscoring chance. 

As expected, Shearer and Howey took up positions in opposition to each other and when the former toon defender limped off just after the quarter hour mark with hamstring problems, it looked as if things were working out in our favour. A long-range free kick was hammered goalwards by Robert and tipped over by a relieved Walker, and other half chances came and went but we didn't seriously threaten a breakthrough.

For Leicester, a litany of misplaced passes and over hit crosses frustrated a near-silent home crowd as the Foxes seemed to struggle more with the conditions on their own ground than United.

After the break, the home fans found their voices after Robert had seen his run and shot blocked, but Newcastle remained the likelier side to score before Dickov's unexpected strike.

That brought three and a half moribund stands to life and by the time Ferdinand wasted a good chance by heading wide of Given's goal, the Leicester fans were hailing their heroes with a Mexican wave -  something of a slight over-reaction given the entertainment-light events of the afternoon thus far and one which of course had the deeply cynical and wounded among us whispering the B word - Bilbao.

For anyone unfamiliar with our 1994 UEFA Cup campaign, a similar crowd reaction enveloped SJP when we went 3-0 up against the Basque side, only for our players to allow the visitors to score twice and give themselves a platform to dump us out of the competition with a 1-0 home win in Spain, which they duly achieved. 

In the aftermath of that game, it was suggested in the Tyneside press that the  showboating over-celebration of the crowd had affected the players. And while it was perhaps stretching a point to claim that the occupants of the Walkers Stadium had emulated us, it was very rewarding to be able to Mexican wave back at them as they scurried from their seats in disgust, having seen their side turn three points into one yet again.

Once that childish interlude was over though, it was tempting to reflect on an afternoon in which we once again demonstrated our lack of form and emphasised the inconsistency that has dogged our season so far. 

Welcome though that equaliser was though and fervently celebrated, it did let us off the hook rather and papered over the all-too obvious cracks that have appeared in all outfield departments.

While it's correct to say that our starting lineup was shorn of a number of first-choice players, of those who appeared there were very large question marks about the reliability and effectiveness of O'Brien, Hughes and Jenas. 

Of the rest, Shearer and Speed looked their age, the French duo showed little and Solano was underwhelming despite his new-found saviour status among many fans. LuaLua once again failed to deliver when given a chance by Robson and one second half dash forward when he chose to ignore Robert and Shearer either side in space in favour of a headlong dash into three defenders and consequent loss of possession may well have sealed his fate. 

It's all very well for Robson to go cap in hand to Shepherd in advance of the transfer window, but while he has millions of pounds-worth of acquisitions that he cannot play for various reasons apart from injury (ie the inability of Cort to get match-fit and the unsuitability for this league of Viana or his mullet-growing predecessor Gavilan) then Freddy is entitled to tell him where to go. 

Then there's the fact that the Champions League campaign that was expected to dictate our transfer purse was knocked off course at the first hurdle and at present looks like being a non-starter for next season. The club might not budget for the revenue from Champs League matches, but forking out 15m for two unusable players plus their wages is something of an unexpected burden on the finances...... 

Sir Bobby has a lot to ponder in the coming weeks, from the trio of signings (Woodgate, Bowyer, Bellamy) that appear injury-prone, to the current or coming absence of much of his forward cover, through to a collective woefulness in midfield among the younger elements of the squad.

It's tempting to say that an influx of new players would freshen up our side but given the fact we already have a full team plus subs within the alleged senior squad who clearly now have no chance of playing, it's not necessarily the answer to all our problems. Remember this was the strongest squad Robson ever assembled, in his own words....

The fact we're not bringing through local youngsters in sufficient numbers, the fact we appear not to be coaching and developing the players we've got and the fact our recent record in the transfer market is less than wonderful should all cause the Chairman to assess exactly what he needs to spend his money on - even if he does run the risk of huffing his manager.  



Page last updated 26 December, 2012