Sam Allardyce savoured one most vital results of his long career when Newcastle “Near-Best” United’s handed a 1-1 draw with “Half-Best” Arsenal on an evening of wholehearted effort and support on and off the pitch.
Tyneside rallied around Allardyce and on this evidence, rumours about sackings and dressing-room disquiet are still to be dismissed. But in restricting Arsenal to just four-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League from a possible of six, was an outcome that few could have predicted.
Arsenal's supporters may claim to have their “Half-Best” last night, lacking Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini, but the “Near-Best” Newcastle team recovered from an early strike by Emmanuel Adebayor to equalise in the second half through Steven Taylor.
“I’m relieved, but I’m also disappointed that we haven’t won and that’s a little bit hard to take,” Allardyce said. “It’s not often you can put Arsenal on the back foot for so long. They were hanging on by the end. But the result was a weight lifted off all of us, including me.”
Arsène Wenger acknowledged the power of the crowd, saying: “I anticipated a crisis here and I anticipated a different game, but it looked like they made a union to fight and come together.”
“All of them were on board. They fought like mad for 90 minutes. Newcastle were very direct, but the pressure from the stands was so great that I can’t blame the referee.”
Newcastle had a committed presence but stayed within the letter of the law and keep away from trouble. Arsenal's player couple of times tried to overcome it by conning the referee, same old typical Arsenal team.
Thankfully, Mike Dean didn’t fall for that and gifted Sagna a well-deserved yellow card for his dirty trick to send Smith Off.