United beaten by a Long shot
NEWCASTLE UNITED went down to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Reading today as the Berkshire side halted their mini revival.
The dejected Toon Army trooped out of the Madejski Stadium with nothing to show from their long journey as a late Shane Long goal won it for the Royals.
United started the game with Joey Barton in the starting XI for the first time with Emre pushed out wide left.
That meant Alan Smith, back from a ban, was only a sub alongside Charles N'Zobgia who was still recovering from cold.
And for the second game running there was no place at all for Steven Taylor with Cacapa and Abdoulaye Faye starting their third game running at the heart of defence.
The clash between the Royals and the Magpies got off to a quiet start.
But Reading should really have scored the opener on 12 minutes when Kevin Doyle thundered down the right and rolled it across the six yard box for Leroy Lita who somehow got the ball caught between his feet and fluffed an easy chance with just Shay Given to beat.
Three minutes later and United responded when Barton found Michael Owen with a ball from the right and the England striker applied a scruffy finish past Marcus Hahnemann only for Graeme Murty to mop up on the line and deny the Toon star, who felt he'd been fouled by the American keeper.
Neither side seemed to be able to make the breakthrough in a dire first half contest but Lita did test Shay Given with a shot from eight yards and Geremi drifted a free-kick just wide of the Reading goal frame.
Yet the closest Reading would come in the first period was in comical fashion when Cacapa overcooked a backpass and Given struggled to get back in time before fortunately clearing the danger for the Toon.
However, frustrations in the away section became clear on the 50 minute mark when the Toon Army began chanting "attack, attack, attack, attack, attack."
But the only attacking was happening at the other end and eight minutes into the second half it was the home side who grabbed the lead.
And sadly for United it was a case of deja vu as Dave Kitson swept home after a pass on the crust of the 18 yard box from Stephen Hunt which allowed the Royals to take the lead.
That was the cue for Big Sam to make big changes and N'Zogbia and Smith were called from the bench soon after with the ineffective Nicky Butt and Martins leaving the field to a chorus of boos from the Geordie fans.
The Toon fans in Berkshire also made their feelings known as the game drifted into the final quarter by chanting the name of James Milner with Newcastle lacking a cutting edge.
And they got their wish with 16 minutes on the clock when a reshuffle saw Faye make way for Milner with Habib Beye moving into the centre of defence and Geremi dropping back to right-back allowing Milner to drive Newcastle forward down the same flank.
The move paid instant dividends too as Milner won a free-kick deep on the right with Emre whipping the ball into the near post for Smith who got a slight touch before Michael Duberry flicked it into his own net on 76 minutes.
Yet if Allardyce thought it was an inspired substitution he was trumped by Steve Coppell with seven minutes left.
Young Irishman Shane Long came off the bench with Nicky Shorey's free-kick picking him out and it was the ex-Cork City star who applied a great finish with his first touch just 10 seconds after coming on.
And just to add to Newcastle's woes Cacapa saw his header with a minute left chalked out for offside.
READING: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Sonko, Gunnarsson, Lita, Doyle, Hunt, Kitson, Harper, Duberry.
Subs: Ingimarsson, Convey, Rosenior, Federici
NEWCASTLE: Given, Beye, Enrique, Cacapa, Faye, Geremi, Butt (N'Zogbia 57), Barton, Emre, Martins (Smith 57), Owen.
Subs: Rozehnal, Harper