Newcastle start the match with three men forward and leave Geremi on the bench, and at first it looks like Big Sam is preparing the gift for our Christmas with another three points at home.
Damien Duff and Viduka both return to the team with Viduka coming straight into starting eleven while Duff waiting on the bench with Harper, Steven Taylor and Emre.
For Derby side, Steve Howard got his childhood dream come tru and playing inside St. James’ Park for the first time after his 13 years of career. Paul Jewell has to make a change for his squad even before the game was started. Claude Davis injuring a knee in the warm-up with Eddie Lewis coming in and Lee Holmes takes his place on the bench.
If you have any Christmas hope before the kick-off and it was for Toon not conceding another sloppy goal early from the start, I’m sorry to say that you may have been bad during this year and your wish not granted.
Miller receives a throw-in on the left on the sixth minute of play, he does well to hold off the challenge of Beye before rolling into the path of Giles Barnes who wins the possession and fires it low from 20 yards into Shay Given’s bottom corner for his first of the season.
Newcastle quickly responded, Martins dummies from Beye’s pass down the right wing and gets away from Lewis, it’s McEveley comes to Derby’s rescue as he slides to block the Nigerian’s attempted cross and United have a corner.
N’Zogbia whips over and Martins accept it with a heads at goal from six yards out, the ball strikes Giles Barnes on the line and saves the day for the Rams.
United keep pushing forward and tries everything they can before in the 27minutes Milner hoists the ball forward to N’Zogbia. Young French cuts inside Leacock and plays the ball to the edge of the area where Barton dummies it for Smith.
He goes to ground under Moore’s challenege but manages to hook the ball for Viduka. Mark no time to waste, he rifles Smith pass low and watch the despairing dive of Bywater to bring the home side level.
Make a wish again and hope somebody else have been doing good. Once again your wishes are hard to get any gift from Santa because we have conceded (again) in the same six minutes interval into second-half. This time Derby’s long punt downfield is seized upon by Derby goal scorer when they win at Pride Park.
Kenny Miller goes by the challenge of Rozehnal and cooly slotting past Given from 12 yards out to restore the Rams lead. Well, Roz needs how many more times before he can understand the England game? Next season maybe, but I guess he has to make it quickly or he will be on the bench again next fixture.
He was then replaced by Steven Taylor in 52 minute and United is once again have to make it level at home. Christmas period seems never been so friendly to us every season.
Nicky Butt is replaced by Damien Duff to make his first appearance under Big Sam in sixty-eight minutes. While Emre comes in for Joey Barton seven minutes later.
United’s effort finally found the net three minutes before the end of normal time, Given send a longball forward and Martins flicks it inside for Viduka and he fires it again first time past Bywater from the edge of the area for his and United’s second.
That’s it! Three games unbeaten and entirely typically for the Toon, we believed we’d made it. We began lethargic, sloppy and overconfident, and surprise, surprise quickly found ourselves a goal down – yet again. Newcastle have an amazing capacity to embarrass, especially during the holiday periods, and once again they came up trumps.
We were shockingly bad: no urgency or cohesion, 2nd to almost every ball, sloppy passing, lacking in movement – the lack of support for the man in possession plumbs new depths today – no control in midfield, creaky in defence, and quite frankly you would never have guessed which team was bottom of the league with only 6 points.
Shay Given, Habib Beye, Charles N’Zogbia, David Rozehnal (Steven Taylor, 52″), Claudio Cacapa, Nicky Butt (Damien Duff, 68″), Joey Barton (Emre, 75″), Alan Smith (c), Oba Martins, Mark Viduka, James Milner
Subs: Steve Harper, Geremi
Stephen Bywater, Jay McEveley, Dean Leacock, Kenny Miller, Gary Teale (Benny Feilhaber, 81″), Steve Howard, Eddie Lewis (Craig Fagan, 78″), Darren Moore (c), Tyrone Mears, Stephen Pearson, Giles Barnes
Subs: Lewis Price, Lee Holmes, Rob Earnshaw
Referee: A Marriner
Attendance: 51, 386