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Remy's dismissal adds to Newcastle's woes
Full-time: Norwich City 0 Newcastle United 0
IT doesn't rain in the world of Newcastle United, it pours.
Twenty-four hours after Yohan Cabaye departed in a £20m move to Paris St Germain, Loic Remy was ruled out of the biggest game of the season, Saturday's Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland, as he was dismissed in the closing stages of a goalless draw with Norwich that the Magpies should really have won.
After hitting the woodwork twice and causing problems whenever he ran at the Canaries defence, Remy became embroiled in a pushing match with Bradley Johnson that saw both players raise their arms aloft.
Remy leaned his head into Johnson's, the Norwich midfielder fell down as if he had been shot, and referee Chris Foy responded by issuing both players with a straight red card.
It was a soft dismissal from Remy's perspective, but it could well prove a costly one with Sunderland's visit to Tyneside looming. What is it about the Magpies and self-inflicted damage?
The ironic thing about Remy's rush of blood was that it came towards the end of an evening that had previously provided something of a timely morale boost given the events of Monday night.
Shorn of their best midfielder, the Magpies produced an effervescent attacking display that saw them hit the post on two separate occasions and the crossbar in the second half.
Norwich hit the woodwork themselves, and forced a superb save from Tim Krul in the final minute of the game, but this was not the display of a Newcastle side licking their wounds after Cabaye's departure.
With Hatem Ben Arfa in imperious form as he replaced Cabaye and Sammy Ameobi performing equally effectively as he made an unexpected return to the first team, creativity was hardly lacking. A lack of depth on the bench was more of a concern, especially if, as expected, Luuk de Jong is the only player arriving this month, but any talk of crisis appears premature.
The Newcastle fans' view on unfolding events was evident in the “Support The Team, Not The Regime” banner that was unfurled in the away end in the opening 15 minutes, but on the pitch at least, there was little sign of a negative reaction to Cabaye's departure.
Bright and industrious from the off, the visitors settled much the quicker of the two sides and might have claimed a third-minute lead had Remy not curled narrowly past the upright after turning past his marker on the edge of the penalty area.
Mathieu Debuchy drilled an early drive over the crossbar, and after Ben Arfa's superb through ball enabled Sissoko to cut the ball back for Remy in the 18th minute, the striker directed his low shot marginally too close to John Ruddy. It was a magnificent passing move though, and proof that Newcastle's collective confidence had not been too badly affected by the events of the previous 24 hours.
Norwich's morale is at a fairly low ebb given their struggles in the bottom half of the table, and the hosts' nervousness almost resulted in what would have been a farcical own goal midway through the first half.
Ruddy palmed Remy's low cross off Bradley Johnson, and the ball trickled off the defender to hit the base of the left-hand post.
That was a let off for the Canaries, and another arrived three minutes later when the woodwork came to their rescue again.
Sissoko released Remy down the left, and the QPR loanee, who appears to have regained his best form after a recent fallow spell, cut in from the flank before curling a low strike against the opposite upright. He will be a huge miss against Sunderland at the weekend.
A goal at that stage would have been a fair reflection of Newcastle's first-half dominance, but the visitors were unable to secure the breakthrough their play deserved, spurning another great opportunity shortly before the break.
Ameobi's purposeful running took him to the byline, but after he intelligently picked out Ben Arfa, the Frenchman scuffed his shot wastefully over the crossbar.
Newcastle United’s Shola Ameobi is tackled by Norwich City's Leroy Fer
Krul had barely touched the ball at that stage, and his only involvement before the break saw him get down low to keep out Gary Hooper's rasping drive on the stroke of half-time. With Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor displaying impressive resolve and organisation at the heart of the back four, Newcastle remained in the ascendancy at the start of the second half, although there was at least some increased urgency about Norwich's attacking.
As the evening wore on, however, it felt like one of those nights, a sensation that was strengthened when the Magpies hit the woodwork for the third time on the hour mark.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel felled Ben Arfa on the edge of the area, and Remy stepped up to curl a delicate free-kick against the crossbar with Ruddy beaten.
The French forward couldn't quite get enough purchase on a header from a Sissoko cross shortly after, but as Norwich finally stirred in the closing stages, it was Newcastle's turn to be saved by the woodwork as Hooper turned to drill Nathan Redmond's cross against the crossbar with 14 minutes left.
That was the cue for tensions to simmer, and they erupted with eight minutes left as Remy took offence to a foul from Johnson and entered into an unseemly game of push and shove.
It was a thoroughly unnecessary incident, and while Foy might have displayed a little more leniency given that neither player landed anything approaching a telling blow, by the letter of the law, the official was probably right to dismiss both miscreants.
Remy's departure was a major blow, but things would have been worse had Krul not performed some heroics in the final minute. Robert Snodgrass headed Redmond's cross towards the bottom corner, but Newcastle's goalkeeper scrambled the ball to safety.