We travel up to Newcastle, the scene of our last defeat, for the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final. We’re 7/4 underdogs for the match and I make two changes as Jonathan Bond comes back in for Metodi Spasov in goal, whilst Federico Cenci replaces Philipp Langer up front. Roared on by the 52,387 inside St. James’ Park, Newcastle start on the front foot and win a number of corners with their early pressure. The corners pay off in the 14th minute when an inswinging Lansbury corner is met by Diane, who volleys in from 6 yards to give our hosts a deserved lead. Five minutes later, Lansbury decides to be the scorer as opposed to just assisting, but Bond is equal to his 18 yard shot and Newcastle win another corner. Bond is called into action again 2 minutes later, denying Devaux from 10 yards. In the 24th minute, we win a corner – Newcastle clear and Sturridge picks the ball up on the halfway line and runs unchallenged into our area before finishing from 12 yards. It’s said that you can’t win a two-legged tie in the first leg, but Newcastle are giving it a good go to prove this wrong. In the 31st minute, Dacian Varga crosses from the left, but it deflects off a Newcastle defender. Thankfully, it deflects to Cenci who scores his 10th goal of the season from 3 yards. Despite all the pressure we’ve been under, we’re now only a goal behind and back in the game. Lansbury looks to get their two-goal lead back three minutes later, but Bond is equal to his 25 yard effort and pushes the ball wide.
Four minutes into the second half, Devaux shoots from 10 yards again and Bond denies him again. The first yellow card of the game is produced in the 55th minute when Taylor fouls Cenci. A minute later, Varga passes to Michel and he bursts into the area, but his shot from 12 yards goes wide. Before the goal kick is taken, I make two substitutions: Aiman Mustafa replaces Cenci up front, whilst I make a defensive change with Jay Spearing coming on as an anchorman, replacing Michel who had been playing as an attacking midfielder. With how well Newcastle have been playing, this is my attempt to take what we’ve got. Sean Morrison goes into the book in the 58th minute after fouling Sturridge. Bertin Matip takes an outswinging corner in the 65th minute and Mustafa shoots from 6 yards, but Krul denies him with a save on the line and Newcastle clear to preserve their lead. Stephen Darby becomes the third booking of the game in the 72nd minute after fouling Ba. De Sutter shoots from 10 yards in the 76th minute, but there’s no beating Bond from that distance again today and Newcastle get another corner. One minute later, Sturridge shoots from 25 yards and it’s going wide until Ba heads in from 2 yards, but he’s offside and we’re still only a goal down. It’s looking like we might somehow escape with a 2-1 loss. Bradley Johnson becomes our third yellow card of the game in the 87th minute after fouling Lansbury. In the second minute of stoppage time, Sturridge runs down the left and gets into the area. He squares the ball for De Sutter who rolls the ball into an empty net from 12 yards to give Newcastle a two-goal victory that their performance deserved. Lansbury is named Man of the Match with a rating of 8.9 and 2 assists. We’ve got it all to do in the second leg.