It proved to be a Kew Bridge
too far for Newcastle in West London on Tuesday teatime; a 66th minute
strike from Josh Dasilva ending dreams of their first League Cup Semi-Final
place in 44 years.
Second tier Brentford claimed their fourth Premier League scalp in this
season's competition, but unlike Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and
Fulham, this was the strongest side available to Steve Bruce.
The hosts by contrast named just five of the side that had beaten Reading
3-1 a home in the Championship last Saturday, top scorer Ivan Toney
beginning the tie on the bench against his former side.
Despite the Brentford Community Stadium having only recently opened, the
damage done to the playing surface by co-tenants London Irish was evident -
hardly improved by a West London downpour.
Half time was reached scoreless; Luke Daniels saving from Callum Wilson and Ryan
Fraser, while opposite number Karl Darlow denied Dasilva.
Saman Ghoddos however also struck the crossbar for the Bees, while Sergi
Canos somehow contrived to put a free header wide of the target after
caught napping by a 26th minute corner routine.
Once again, Newcastle failed to seize the initiative after the break and
would be punished immediately after Fraser and Miggy Almiron made way for
Joelinton and Dwight Gayle to try and assist Wilson.
Sadly though the service into the box was as lamentable at 0-1 as it had
been at 0-0; United we lacked the guile to put their opponents under
concerted pressure or force dead ball situations. Route none you could call
A crucial block from Darlow stopped Christian Norgaard from sealing
victory on 77 minutes, before preventing Toney from claiming his dream goal
in added time.
By then we'd added a fourth forward in the shape of third replacement Andy
Carroll, who couldn't even provide nuisance value. Had coach Steve Harper
reminding Bruce that he'd once played up front against Celtic, he'd have
probably been on as well by then....
That ingenious ploy of putting the big lad on may have worked once
when an eagle-eyed VAR operator spotted a minute Tottenham transgression,
but even Callum Wilson struggles to win penalties from outside the box....
Unlike the night we forced penalties at Newport though, no equaliser
came - not least because we failed to get a shot on target after falling
behind. One late and lazy howk from Carroll may have bent the top of the new
stand - it certainly didn't threaten the 'keeper, unless he cricked his
Lowlights of an all-round
shitshow included; Yedlin reminding us all why he dropped out of a
misfiring side and Lewis having yet another uncomfortable night -
seemingly targeted again as a weak point by the opponents.
Almiron was utterly anonymous again, Shelvey provided one decent ball,
plenty of loafing and looking, but nothing to justify the armband. Sean Longstaff meanwhile looks totally devoid of confidence,
as his absent
brother is doubtless redoubling his efforts to secure an exit in January.
Despite appearing on the teamsheet, Jacob Murphy seemed only to have arrived
at half time, presumably having initially gone to Griffin Park. And a word
for Joelinton, or two: piss-taker. Grinning at the end and fist bumping
people he didn’t know, at least have the presence of mind to look gutted.
This outcome was anything but a shock and our history is of course littered
with alleged giant-killings. While a good number of the more recent ones have been
as a partial consequence of team selections, Bruce doesn't even have
that line to trot out here. This was just gutless.
The scoreline and the negative reaction to it put us in mind of a
defeat at Wigan in the same competition 15 years ago - although the Latics
were a fellow top-flight side that night, they still beat us with a weakened
We'll even lift a line from our match report of that November 2005 game;
substitute "London" for "Lancashire" and replace "Souness" with "Bruce":
At the end of a miserable night in Lancashire we couldn't summon up
anything but contempt for Souness and his side. And that contempt seems to
be echoed by his players - whose display (or lack of it) spoke volumes about
what they think of the manager.
A third successive non-performance leaves Bruce under fire from supporters
and increasing areas of the media. And if he's not in fear of his job due to
the owner's support (or disinterest), he now faces a murderous run of games
- during which his media pals won’t be able to chirp "but he’s got you a cup
semi final" as the fourth or fifth goal opposition goal goes in.
Despite the most favourable run of cup draws in living memory, Bruce has
passed up a golden chance to statistically exceed every one of those who
occupied the "hot seat" before him since Joe Harvey.
The opportunity of a place in the history books, if not the hearts of those
who back his “beloved black and whites” was there, until his players got
involved. It's not enough to say they were indifferent - by the finish those
on the field looked to be wilfully trying to heap pressure on their gaffer.
The ongoing lack of fans is having an effect on the owner, the team and the
manager in a positive and negative sense. The current stated position of
Ashley as willing seller coincides with the lack of opportunity to criticise
him - there's even less reason to shout at shops when they're shut. Or
The manager meanwhile - or whoever is winding him up about it - may lament
the negative comments on social media, but reality really isn't intruding on
his world as Magpies boss at this moment in time.
By that we mean the sort of bad feeling that Alan Pardew ended up being
exposed to on matchdays - we're a long way from John Carver ranting at
banners in the away end at Southampton or a chorus of boos every time
threatened to leave the home dugout at SJP.
And based on tonight, the players also seem to be in a vacuum; being denied
the litmus test of instant public opinion over their shortcomings also
leaves them unable to be lifted positively by the crowd. It's a moot point
though what those who have accused the SJP "boo boys" of scapegoating
players make of their current form - or lack of it. One less factor to
Equally alienated but in a different way are those supporters: denied the
opportunity of venting their feelings in more traditional ways like
cheering, booing or even going to the pub to mull it over, those who aren't
ranting on social media lack any outlet to articulate their collective
disgust over this unrelenting tide of mediocrity.
There is nothing positive about this club in the final days of 2020 - and no
realistic prospect of that situation changing.
Sacking Bruce is just a rinse and repeat cycle; nobody credible would want
to replace him, and the club wouldn't want anybody of that ilk - with their
dangerous progressive ideas about employing competent staff rather than
cronies and relatives, improved facilities and an Academy worth having.