Saturday sees us embark on one of my favourite away trips: Newcastle. As I mentioned the other day, United’s big win over Middlesbrough on Monday night has rather changed the complexion of the contest that awaits us. Had the Tyne-Tees derby finished in a draw or (even worse) a defeat, then they would have been fighting against the tide in our game on Saturday. As it is, with Hull looking increasingly hapless and now in the relegation zone, another couple of points could make them safe.
We don’t have a particularly bad record at Newcastle considering our away results have been notoriously poor since we returned to the top flight. Louis Saha scrambled a late goal on our first trip to St. James’ Park back in 2002 to rescue a point, although we had to wait a couple of years for our most memorable result at Newcastle. Mark Crossley made a string of fine saves (including one with his face that he couldn’t have known too much about), Luis Boa Morte terrorised the Magpies defence and we clinched a stunning 4-1 win.
The following season saw us denied by a late goal from Charles N’Zogbia from repeating the feat. Brian McBride went in bravely to give us an early lead after a defensive mistake but we couldn’t survive a late Newcastle onslaught. Scott Parker was sent off in the closing minutes as I recall and we marshalled Newcastle’s latest big-money forward, Michael Owen, pretty well.
Jimmy Bullard got horribly injured in our next game at Newcastle and for a long time it looked as if we’d slump to a disappointing defeat. Trailing to a second half goal from Scott Parker – who had tackled Bullard in the first half – it looked as though the game was going to peter out. But Fulham came roaring back in the closing minutes with two late goals. McBride poached an equaliser after Carlos Bocanegra’s header had caused alarm in the Newcastle box and Bocanegra grabbed a last-minute winner.
A similar achievement would be welcome at the weekend. As Jason has pointed out, a win might be enough to clinch seventh spot. We would do well not to repeat the rather tame perfromance we produced in an arguably more important encounter up there last season. The message coming out of the Magpies camp is that they can’t relax even after the win over the Boro. Danny Guthrie’s interview stresses that point today.