Last Friday Newcastle United reported a loss of £12m following 12 months of underachievement and unwise investment in a visibly weak squad.
Against Charlton Athletic on Saturday, the Magpies discarded two valuable points following 90 minutes of often attractive but ultimately fruitless football. The average crowd has been shorn of around 3,500 supporters following weeks of uninspiring fare and a failure to fill the goalscoring void left gaping by Alan Shearer's retirement.
It is a vicious circle only the manager, Glenn Roeder, and his players can break but, to judge by this display, there is very little evidence a revival will occur soon. Without the injured Shola Ameobi, Obafemi Martins and Antoine Sibierski, goals were always going to be at a premium against a well-drilled Charlton defence, with the outstanding Scott Carson at its hub.
"The performance was there but we didn't score and there's no hiding the fact that we're a bit light in the striking department," said the United captain, Scott Parker. "We're near the bottom of the table and it's not looking good, but if we keep playing the way we are then our luck will turn."
Such is the apathy at Newcastle these days that Charlton's outstanding player, Talal El Karkouri, escaped without a single jeer on his return to the North-east. It is a given that former Sunderland players endure the wrath of a Geordie crowd, but United fans have more pressing concerns. "Talal has been brilliant," said Charlton's manager, Iain Dowie. "His wife had a baby girl last Tuesday night and he played a Carling Cup tie the following evening after two hours' sleep. He's done terrifically."
The same cannot be said for Newcastle, who now head for Thursday's Uefa Cup fixture away to the Serie A pacesetters Palermo visibly feeling the strain. The supporters can see it even if Roeder cannot. "The important thing is that the players are retaining their confidence and playing the football that I want them to play," he said.
Watching the willing, but hesitant, Duff shoot weakly at Carson twice in two second-half minutes simply confirmed a striking loss of confidence. Perhaps that will prove to be the most damaging loss of all.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Carr, Moore, Bramble, Babayaro; Solano (Milner, 84), Parker, Butt, N'Zogbia; Rossi, Duff. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Ramage, Taylor, Luque.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; Young, El Karkouri, Diawara, Hreidarsson; Rommedahl, Holland, Faye, Reid (Kishishev, 72); D Bent, M Bent (Hughes, 60). Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Fortune, Hasselbaink.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Newcastle Babayaro; Charlton Faye.
Man of the match: Solano.
Attendance: 48,642.Reuse content