Sunday 10th November 2013
Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle
Krul & the gang
In November 2013, I packed my bags and took my dreadful away record to London to witness Newcastle United playing at White Hart Lane for the third successive season. In early 2012 I’d seen us lose at this venue 5-0 and followed this up a season later with an unlucky 2-1 defeat. By this point, friends and family were begging me not to travel to NUFC away matches as I was fast becoming the bearer of incredibly bad luck. At the start of the season, I’d travelled behind enemy lines forty five times and only seen us win on eight occasions. The 13/14 season would prove to be different though, this season the stars had aligned, this season I was the Toon’s lucky mascot and I was going to milk it for all it was worth.
My away day record had been gradually improving throughout the campaign and this change of fortunes was about to come to a head. Firstly I’d seen us win a friendly away at Blackpool 1-0 courtesy of Shola Ameobi, not the most impressive victory but a vast improvement on some of my previous travels. This was followed up by a 2-0 win at my local club Morecambe in the league cup. Again not the most exciting result but a further victory to boost my stats so I’ll be having that one too thank you very much. Things started to get really special for me when we travelled to Aston Villa, a team I love to hate, in September 2013. This was a class day out! The away end was packed and in good voice, I was well-oiled and the Toon put on a great performance for their travelling fans. Ben Arfa had already scored the winner against Fulham the previous week and today he ran the show. The first half was all Toon and our man got the vital touch inside the area to send us in at the interval 1-0 up. Villa were to equalise in the second half but Hatem was soon at it again, beating his man and slamming a low shot that the Villa ‘Keeper did well to parry. Thankfully the ball fell to the onrushing Gouffran who lashed home his first of the season and what proved to be the winner. Three away games, three wins and perhaps my personal curse was gradually lifting.
Newcastle’s match at White Hart Lane was made all the more special by the fact that it was the early kick off on Remembrance Sunday. I woke up bleary eyed and more than a little fragile due to the merriment of the previous night and realised I was running late. Hungover or not, it was time for me to jump onto a tube train with a bag of beers and hundreds of excited Geordies as we prepared to party in the capital. The tube was rocking! singing, clapping and drinking was the order of the day as NUFC took over London...but then something magical happened. At precisely eleven o’clock everyone started shushing and the whole tube fell silent. Yes we were drunk, yes we were rowdy and yes we wanted to sing our heads off for the lads but we were all to a man respectful of the silence to commemorate those who had fought and died for our freedom. The sight of hundreds of rowdy, bouncing football fans suddenly standing still and silent in respect for our war veterans was a very moving experience and seeing the train suddenly bouncing again after two minutes of stone-cold silence was proof in my mind that this would be a very special day indeed.
The match kicked off at midday and saw Newcastle fans squinting into the November sun. At the far end of the ground it was clear that Tottenham had experienced two clear-cut chances, thankfully Tim Krul was equal to both and the travelling Toon Army applauded his fine saves. On Ten minutes mercenary loan signing Loic Remy was almost clean through and looked a certain goalscorer only for a Tottenham defender to whip the ball away with an amazing slide tackle. We wouldn’t have long to wait though as only three minutes later Yohan Gouffran played Remy in and he took a touch past the ‘keeper before stroking the ball into the empty net. This goal sent the travelling fans into ecstasy and the sight of over three thousand die-hards exploding in unison was the perfect start to any away match. With that lead to defend, it soon became clear that United would play on the back foot and look to hit Tottenham on the counter-attack. This tactic away to such a good team would require stout defending and a goalkeeper in the form of his life - thankfully we’d have both of those things in abundance!
Tottenham were keen to right the injustice of Newcastle taking an early lead against the run of play and pegged the Toon deep inside their own half until the interval. As the match wore on it became apparent that Tim Krul was in inspired form, most noticeably making two world class saves before the break. Firstly our hero flung himself to his left top corner to save a freekick and then made an identical leap to his right to do the same again minutes later. Half-time brought with it a roar from the travelling fans. We knew that with the score still 1-0 to the Toon, the second half could either be a complete nightmare or very special indeed. The worry was that if our defensive damn was to burst, a complete capitulation could follow leaving our first half efforts in vain. We needn’t have worried. A brick wall couldn’t have done a better job than wor Timmy that afternoon.
The second half started in the same vein as the first, United pinned back and trying everything to keep Tottenham at bay. The Toon Army were now gathered behind the goal that Spurs were attacking and this second half was simply excruciating. The home side created chance after chance as it seemed that Spurs could carve our entire team apart at will. On two separate occasions, our defence was found wanting and Tottenham players were in on goal with just Krul to beat. On both occasions he pulled off spectacular saves with his legs. The away fans were desperately encouraging their team but at this moment it looked just a matter of time before Tottenham would score the two goals they needed to ensure three points for the cockerels rather than the magpies.
The moment of the match came with just under twenty minutes left. Spurs were awarded a dangerous freekick just outside of the box. This was lashed towards goal and with our 'keeper initially diving to his left, the ball took a wicked deflection to send it in the opposite direction. At this point Tim had a split second to twist to his right and beat the ball directly into the path of Spurs attackers, the scene seemed set for one of their star strikers to lap this up. When the rebound came, he used his other arm to save that effort and then in an act of heroism, saved the second rebound with his head! This was a triple save that defied belief but unfortunately appeared all for nothing as finally our man was beaten. At the fourth attempt, the ball was scrambled past him and it seemed our luck had finally run out. A split-second later the score would be 1-1 and the Toon would have a mountain to climb if they were to gain anything from the match. Out of nowhere however, Yanga-Mbiwa was quick as a flash to acrobatically hook the ball off the line and behind for a corner. At this point I knew the game was ours. It didn't matter how long was left, Spurs could have hammered us for the next ten hours and the ball wasn't going in the net. This was our afternoon, it was written in the stars that the Toon were destined to end up victorious. The miraculous triple save followed by a goal line clearance seemed to knock the stuffing out of Spurs. They continued to dominate possession but the feeling was mutual that our keeper just couldn't be beaten today. Overall he made fourteen saves in the match, the most ever recorded in Premier League history.
The final whistle brought cheers of joy and relief from those behind the goal. The rest of the day was now ours to celebrate. We danced out of White Hart Lane singing songs of victory whilst hugging and shaking hands with total strangers. One Spurs fan shouted at us "What have you ever won?" and the bloke behind me had the perfect comeback "We've won a game of football". You can't blame the Spurs fans for being more than a little miffed however, on a different day this could have been a 5-1 massacre. This goalkeeping masterclass was one of the highlights of the season and proof that football really can be a very 'Krul' game indeed.