AS the Huddersfield Town fans weaved their way through the streets that act like arteries carrying the hordes towards the true heartbeat of Newcastle, the afternoon sun was beating down and there was more flesh on display than can usually be seen in the nearby Bigg Market at midnight.
It felt like late Springtime at St James’ Park rather than the final Saturday of February, such was the unseasonably warm weather that had led to coats being shed and sunglasses dug out of the cupboard.
Come full-time and yet another Huddersfield defeat, those same visitors must have been wishing the clocks really could be moved forward to late April or even May and a time when this most desperate of campaigns is drawing to a merciful close.
The Terriers have now lost 20 of their 27 games and scored a paltry 14 goals. No other club in the top five European leagues has such a wretched record to their name.
But for a November that included both this term’s victories over Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers plus a draw with West Ham United, Huddersfield would be well on course to set a new record low points target in the Premier League.
As it is, Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative has 11 to its name – the same number as Derby County cobbled together in the campaign of misery that was 2007-08 at Pride Park.
that is what we have to do. We have to try and find a way to get out of this slump. That is what Jan is doing, spending a lot of time on.Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen
Edging past the Rams’ total at some stage over the coming weeks will at least bring some solace but the end of the season really cannot come soon enough for a team who appear punch-drunk on the back of taking so many beatings.
Just a solitary point has been claimed from the last 14 games and it shows not only on the faces of Jan Siewert’s men but also in their play.
Tommy Smith’s red card for a reckless lunge at Miguel Almiron did not help, not least because it meant the top-flight’s bottom club had to play for 70 minutes with a man down.
But even before the Terriers captain launched himself into a challenge he had little hope of winning, Newcastle had struck the same post twice and looked capable of opening up the visitors almost at will.
The Magpies went on to hit the woodwork four times overall, while Jonas Lossl performed such heroics in goal that even some of the locals in a 52,174 crowd stayed behind to applaud the Dane from the field.
Without this goalkeeping master-class and those efforts that bounced to safety from the upright, this latest defeat would surely have exceeded the five-goal thrashings meted out by Manchester City and Chelsea.
“We all understand the serious position we are in,” Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, Town’s top scorer with three goals this term, told The Yorkshire Post.
“Unfortunately, it does not get any easier. It is tough going home after a defeat, it is tough going to work after a defeat.
“But that is what we have to do. We have to try and find a way to get out of this slump. That is what Jan is doing, spending a lot of time on.
“He is very passionate and that is important. We want to get back to winning ways. Tuesday (against Wolves) is our next chance to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Huddersfield, resplendent in luminous yellow shirts, did start the game brightly in the North-East sunshine.
Soon, though, those all too familiar storm clouds that have dogged Town this term rolled in as Rafael Benitez’s men found their attacking rhythm.
A scintillating move that began on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area with the first of three crisp passes in quick succession opened up the visitors’ defence sufficiently for Almiron to be played clear.
Smith put a hand on the Paraguayan’s shoulder but was shrugged off before the Toon’s new record signing attempted an audacious chip that cleared Lossl only to strike the post. Rondon’s follow-up hit the same upright.
Lossl then pulled off the first of countless fine saves to deny Rondon, who a minute or so later was one of several in black and white besieging referee Kevin Friend to dismiss Smith for his horribly mistimed challenge on Almiron.
The rest of the first half was a procession towards the Town goal but Lossl kept Almiron and Ayote Perez at bay. Even the Dane, however, could do nothing as Rondon capitalised on some awful defending to break the deadlock a minute after the restart.
Perez doubled the home side’s advantage when he reacted quickest to a knockdown from Rondon six minutes later and after that it was all about how many more Newcastle would score.
None, as it turned out, thanks to both Lossl – whose save to tip a Kenedy thunderbolt against the crossbar was quite wonderful – and then Sean Longstaff hitting almost exactly the same spot with his own effort.
Nevertheless, there was no mistaking at full-time the deflation felt by those same 2,700 travelling fans who had been basking in the pre-match sunshine just a couple of hours earlier.