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Cottage calamity as Magpies blown away.

Byline: John Gibson

NEWCASTLE United were hit by a bunch of fives and knocked spark out.

If Alan Pardew talked of his lowest point being a one-goal defeat at Fulham last season in the wake of Andy Carroll's departure, then the second half this time round was the stuff of nightmares.

Craven Cottage is a jinx ground of recent times, but that isn't a good enough reason to commit hara-kiri en masse.

A goal up and dominating proceedings at half-time, United were blown away by a four-goal blast within 16 stunning minutes.

The defending was criminal and a country mile away from early season when the Mags boasted the meanest defence in the land.

United were not strong enough either physically or mentally.

If they have spent up to pounds 10m on a centre-forward then perhaps there are those who would wish to see a centrehalf following ASAP.

Newcastle need defensive options having lost their No.1 header of the ball Steven Taylor, who did so much to glue the defence together.

The general feeling was that two teams short on firepower would play out a low-scoring encounter, not wallow in a seven-goal deluge.

But then football rarely recognises the obvious.

This was without doubt the worst 45 minutes since Arsenal led 4-0 at St James' Park last season, though that was gloriously redeemed with a four-goal reprise topped off by a memorable Cheick Tiote strike.

No such happy ending was forthcoming at the Cottage. Instead it was calamity.

Fulham had looked toothless with Bobby Zamora disinterested, but the game swung on the sub appearance of Andy Johnson.

The one-time England centreforward runs relentlessly and gets in behind defenders. He tortured Newcastle, and if Fulham are willing to sell him this window they must be barmy. United couldn't cope when their rivals switched to 4-4-2 with two up top instead of one, especially with Johnson's considerable attributes.

If Johnson, hat-trick hero Clint Dempsey et al made Martin Jol a jolly fellow, then Pardew departed with a face like thunder.

The half-hearted excuse was that Fulham were allowed back into the match through a dubious penalty, that appeared more like a con by Damien Duff against his old club.

But that doesn't excuse or explain what happened then.

Besides, United could easily have been in even deeper trouble with Davide Santon and Tim Krul both fortunate not to see a red card brandished in their direction.

The Italian full-back tugged at opponents long before giving away a highly-suspect penalty and was living on skid row.

Ironic, isn't it, that after so many highlights this campaign the players should be rewarded with a sunshine break after this capitulation.

They had better come back from Tenerife refreshed in body and mind to do the business in the FA Cup, and so wipe away the bitter memory of a black Saturday down by the Thames.

CAPTION(S):

JOHNSON FLYING Tim Krul brings down Andy Johnson and right, Alan Pardew
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 23, 2012
Words:495
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