LONDON – A much disliked and often derided manager may have finally, and somehow profitably, departed, but otherwise it was a case of plus Ã§a change, plus câ€™est la mÃªme chose as far as Newcastle Unitedâ€™s miserably furious supporters were concerned. A third consecutive third-round FA Cup exit means the odds on the caretaker, John Carver, taking over as Unitedâ€™s new head coach must lengthen, though given the club owner Mike Ashleyâ€™s famous lack of interest in cup competitions, Alan Pardewâ€™s former assistant will remain in the running.
The anger of the 4,319 travelling supporters was directed at Ashley, rather than Carver. In the final few minutes the King Power Stadium resounded to indignant chants inviting Ashley, in no uncertain terms, to â€œget out of our clubâ€, before adding: â€œWeâ€™re shit, and weâ€™re sick of it.â€
Such was their disillusion, in fact, that there will be many among those supporters who will maintain the odds on Carver getting the job should actually shorten, because having spent much of his pre-match press conference emphasising how much value he attached to progress in the FA Cup, Pardewâ€™s former assistant left most of Newcastleâ€™s best players this season out of his line-up.
Facing the music afterwards, Carver insisted the likes of Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback, Moussa Sissoko and Fabricio Coloccini were all unavailable owing to various minor injuries, but the reaction on social media was less than impressed, and on the field Newcastle were a collection of confused and noticeably lightweight misfits, who left the field to a cacophony of derision.
â€œIt was hugely embarrassing, but theyâ€™re entitled to do that, and we deserved it,â€ said Carver. â€œRegarding team selection, sometimes itâ€™s very difficult because you only have 48 hours, and we did have a number of issues. The future of this football club is over the next few weeks and itâ€™s important we have people fully fit for our next game.
â€œI put the strongest team out that I could put on the pitch today, other than Ayoze PÃ©rez, who has been one of our shining lights this season. Heâ€™s run out of fuel, there is nothing left in the tank â€“ it would have been a massive gamble to play him.â€
Carver made the point that the result would have been very different if RÃ©my Cabellaâ€™s first-half effort, when the French striker shot past the Leicester goalkeeper Ben Hamer after being played through by a clever flick by Emmanuel RiviÃ¨re, had not been flagged offside. â€œI thought at the time it was a very good goal and [the City manager] Nigel [Pearson] came to me and said it was a very good goal, but thatâ€™s no comfort,â€ said Carver.
A couple of minutes later the visitors were behind. Caught napping by a quickly taken corner, United were unable to prevent Anthony Knockaert crossing with his left foot, and Leonardo Ulloa guided a header over Jak Alnwick and in off the underside of the bar. The goalkeeper got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.
The second half was almost all Leicester, with Marc Albrighton outstanding after coming on in the first half for Esteban Cambiasso, and it took two fine saves from Alnwick to keep the Magpies in the game. Urged to â€œattack, attack, attackâ€ by the travelling supporters, as vocally impressive as ever, Newcastleâ€™s players shrank into themselves.
â€œThe game was an illustration of two clubs who had to utilise their squads, so you had a lot of players who havenâ€™t had much game-time recently and so were not as fluent as they could be, but we put in a very committed performance,â€ said Pearson. â€œJanuary and February are going to be two very big months. Iâ€™m disappointed weâ€™re going to lose two players whoâ€™ve been in very good form to the Africa Cup of Nations [Jeff Schlupp and Riyad Mahrez] but the players whoâ€™ll replace them showed they can bring something to the team. For Marc in particular heâ€™d say it has been a very frustrating time since he came to the club, but when he came on he took his opportunity well. Credit to him.â€ – The Guardian