As if losing a manager was not bad enough, Newcastle United fell 2-1 to Premier League newcomers Hull City today to cap one of the most miserable periods in recent decades at the club. Marlon King's double, his first goals for the Tigers since completing a loan move from Wigan Athletic in August, ensured his side underlined how bad things have become for their hosts.
With supporters, enraged by Kevin Keegan's resignation, demonstrating both inside and outside of St James' Park, managerless Newcastle were outclassed by a side who are expected to spend the season embroiled in a relegation battle.
Keegan, who will not be returning to St James' for a third time despite holding clear-the-air talks with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley on Friday, resigned after the level of boardroom interference become too great for him to tolerate. Despite reports that fans would boycott the game, a near-capacity crowd confirmed the Toon Army still want to support their club.
Newcastle, however, produced their worst performance of the campaign, completely outclassed during a one-sided second half that exposed all of their limitations. Not that those limitations were obvious from the start.
With Spain U-21 international Xisco making his debut after arriving on Tyneside on transfer deadline day, the home side dominated the opening half-hour without making a breakthrough. Michael Owen went closest to breaking the deadlock, but Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill produced a brilliant one-handed save to deny the Newcastle captain after he glanced on Geremi's free-kick from the middle of the penalty area.
The reward of resilience
Hull spent most of the first half defending in their own half, but their resilience was rewarded when they were handed an unlikely opportunity from the penalty spot. Nicky Butt caught Hungarian midfielder Peter Halmosi as he slid into a tackle, and while Shay Given got a hand to King's subsequent spot-kick, he was unable to prevent the ball entering the net off the left-hand post.
Buoyed by their breakthrough, Hull went on to dominate the early stages of the second half, and the visitors duly doubled their lead in the 55th minute. Craig Fagan's through ball exploited a huge hole in the Newcastle defence, and after turning inside left-back Charles N'Zogbia, King curled a precise finish into the bottom left-hand corner.
Newcastle pulled a goal back with eight minutes left, when Xisco tapped home the rebound after N'Zogbia's shot had cannoned against the base of the post. But the match ended on a fittingly miserable note for the hosts when Danny Guthrie was sent off in stoppage time for a wild tackle.