Right, this is getting desperate now. With home form that has lurched from the unadventurous to the unacceptable and the inevitable hopelessness of a trip to Man City looming next week, this had more the air of a nine pointer than a six.

Winning against Swansea would have put daylight between United and the relegation zone and widened the gap to the Swans to a healthy nine points. It would also have ensured that next week’s likely return of zero wouldn’t do drastic damage to our league standing, but perhaps most importantly, it would have added confidence that we are at least capable enough to beat the bottom team on our own ground.

This could have gone worse, and nearly did, but make no mistake this was two massive points dropped. Not wanting to doom monger, but the air of despondency afterwards felt similar to our inability to beat rock bottom Villa at home in the relegation season. That underwhelming draw was in part due to monsoon conditions – but the main factors in this shortfall were far more direct.

Some performances  were resonant in their bare disappointment, as players who performed heroics in last year’s successful campaign gave a shocking demonstration of the sad fact that they have not transitioned to the Premier League.

Dwight Gayle was probably chief culprit in the failure to turn first half dominance into a commanding lead, as he was twice given a free header only to aim hopelessly wide and straight at the keeper respectively. Third time round he managed to nod the ball in the net, but had strayed offside as Lascelles flicked on Ritchie’s corner. If you add in the poor finish when released by Perez second half, you start to get a sense of understanding why there was tangible relief when the number 9 was removed for Joselu.

I was actually a bit furious with Gayle’s wasteful display after the match, but cooled down on him after a bit, as he was at least getting into scoring positions and sometimes you just have one of those days. Matt Ritchie is having one of those seasons.

Last year, when United started to stutter after New Year, Ritchie’s effort was utterly heroic. He won games singlehandedly, never stopped tearing around the pitch for 90 minutes and embodied the resilience that is vital to any promotion push. This year, games seem to be passing him by, which baffles me as I remain convinced he has the quality for this division. A goal may help, but leaving him on to toil fruitlessly when the recently impressive Murphy failed to get off the bench, was a rick in my opinion.

Finally, there seem to be emerging opposite opinions among our fan base on Shelvey.

Some seem to think he is our closest candidate to Premier League class, with his killer balls the only hope of kicking on our toothless attack. I am starting to think Merino is a far better option in the central role, as his less flash but more consistent driving forward of the play builds more sustained pressure.

There’s always hope with Shelvey though, and as he stepped up to take a close range free kick late in the first half there was a real buzz this could be great. With the ball in the D and every Swansea player on the pitch in the box, a firmly struck delivery would cause chaos and have a great chance of ending in the net via someone or other. Shelvey’s attempt to curl one into the postage stamp was an absolute disgrace, as he once again chose the champagne option over the functional, thinking of his own personal highlights package over the interests of the team.

The fact he missed so terribly from so close exacerbated the ridiculous decision and for me was more wasteful than anything Gayle did all game. Or Perez for that matter, who fired another gilt-edged chance straight at Fabianski.

Having failed to make a first half dent when dominating the chances, it was thoroughly bloody obvious what was going to happen. Swansea’s confidence had been allowed to grow, perhaps fired by the denial of a penalty when Diame handled a goalbound effort. More pressing second half and suddenly we were caught cold by a swift counter. Darlow’s diving save from Jordan Ayew’s initial effort looked like a worldy – but he could only knock it back in the direction of the same player to nod in. Nightmare.

Moments later Gayle ended a thoroughly rotten afternoon by getting hooked, with a muted response to the possibility of Joselu coming on to save the day, and to be fair it took him a good four minutes to get on the scoresheet. Shelvey played in Perez who did very well in taking on his man only to produce a poor effort again. Luckily it deflected to Joselu at the back post to steer it in the opposite corner.

Everyone in the place knew that a point wasn’t good enough and the slumbering crowd was spurred into life as the game was played out in a flurry of set-pieces. All were wasted as Ritchie’s deliveries were woefully off mark, the frustration almost tangible at his own stuttering form.

Misery again at full-time as genuine concern kicked in at the desperation of trying to scramble together enough points to remain a reasonable takeover prospect come the summer. With our remaining home games hosting three of the top six, there’s a few to write off, but the visits of three fellow relegation candidates will add little cheer after our consistent failure to put away beatable teams, largely due to poor firepower.

It seems the crowd has been irreversibly damaged by the Pardew era of insulting home performances and dismal lengthy slumps, as the moribund atmosphere and impatient barracking is not helping.

Hopefully we can claw a few of the requisite points on the road, as another weekend of bad results promises yet another Spring of looking desperately over the shoulder.

Yeah, thanks Mike.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Swansea 1

Goals:

Newcastle: Joselu 68

Swansea: Ayew 60

Possession was Swansea 58% Newcastle 42%

Total shots were  Swansea 8 Newcastle 12

Shots on target were Swansea 5 Newcastle 4

Corners were  Swansea 5 Newcastle 4

Referee: Graham Scott

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey (Merino 82), Atsu, Gayle (Joselu 64), Perez

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Haidara, Manquillo, Hayden, Murphy

Crowd: 51,444 (Swansea 1,100)

(Alan Shearer spells it out after watching Newcastle 1 Swansea 1 – Read it HERE)

(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Swansea draw HERE)

(Swansea boss says Newcastle lucky to avoid red card, penalty and defeat – Read it HERE)

(Read what Rafa Benitez had to say after the game HERE)

To feature like Jamie Smith submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    No mention of the Hapless SloMo who lumbers around the pitch like an extra from Walking Dead, whilst Merino, Hayden & Murph sit it out on the bench wondering what are we doing here.
    not to worry though, at least they aren`t on the schitt list like Mitro, Mbemba & Jack.
    Lets see how Peps lads get on against a line of 10 in the 18 yrd box
    should be interesting

    • Damon Horner

      Would you put Jack Colback into the team?

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        No

        • Paul Patterson

          Surely the mackems need a central midfielder?

          • Peaky Magpie

            He’ll get lynched if he goes back there 😂

          • I think they are not in a position to be picky and will take any hope, even from our team ;)

    • Diame is doing more than fine, and has actually scored an odd goal with the limited time he’s on the pitch. Defending and winning back the ball as well, something Shelves and Ritchie are really poor at. He really imposes himself physically in the center. Our best DMF at the moment for sure and he gives Shelves the space to deliver his special long passes. I would have liked Saivet to be given a run as well, but Rafa knows best. All you do is bash players, none of us like that we are in a relegation dogfight, but should be watching the games more unbiased.

    • MYOFB

      Diame has been fine – or at least better than most – recently. If you’d never seen him or Shelvey before Saturday, you’d say Mo was far more committed that Jonjo. I’m not saying he’s a better player, but – for me – he was on Saturday

  • kingfisher

    Surely all the hard work is getting into scoring positions, especially in the Prem . However once you are in a scoring position, It shouldn’t matter what League you are in, you should be able to at least hit the target and either score or make the keeper work for his money.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    Mike did not leave Merino on the bench did not take Shelvey off instead of Diame did not leave Ritchie on for Murphy. These simple options could have won us the game with a more attacking approach in the last twenty minutes. To blame Mike Ashley is a disgrace as we had the players and options to beat Swansea just did not use them correctly.

    • Damon Horner

      Could have lost us the game as well. Judge the whole season on balance (which is PL survival as we speak) not little niggles here and there which are fully subjective to individuals opinions.

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        The little niggles are that if we had attacked more against Everton, Bournemouth, Brighton and Swansea and played our best team we could have been sitting on thirty one points. I would hardly call Diame a little niggle he is like a drunk at the Bigg Market on a Friday night or a boxer in his last round. To pay £10m for Merino and not play him is madness when we need the points.

        • Damon Horner

          No certainty we would have got any more points mate, “could have” got more points might even have been “could have had less”, if what’s happening keeps us up i’ll accept it.

          Diame won twice as many tackles as anybody else, kind of important to commit to tackling against a passing side, I know he isn’t many peoples cup of tea but i’m not single minded enough to think he never serves a good purpose and others such as Shelvey will always serve a good purpose, sometimes the opposition suits Diame.

          Merino is a good little player but don’t lose sight of the fact he is in his first season in this league and has little experience overall. I’d be more worried if he didn’t get regular game time next season.

          • hetonmag

            Damon you are wasting your time mate trying to get your point over.

          • Damon Horner

            Worth a try mate, not everybody is a skillful player with bags of flair and ability but let down by everybody else. We need functional players at times!

            Like it or not as well Diame has a lot of experience and survived relegation battles on more than one occasion… Progressive? no but I do believe right now he has a place.

          • Mitros gotta start

            Merino will be headed back to spain….no way he will play in the championship with us

          • Damon Horner

            Did you ask him? he’s played second tier already but since I support this club then I’m not assuming we’re relegated either mate!

  • Dougie Pagan

    Just want to add. Having watched Shelvey on Saturday I actually saw his passion and drive to make something of the game. My view is Rafa took him off as he could see the red mist descending on Shelvey, after yet another woeful performance form the front pair. Shelvey IS the only player who can pick a pass. As for Gayle and Perez, both need at least 10+ chances before they can convert one. Perez in particular (3 tap ins one of which he almost missed (Stoke) and people think he’s good. Ritchie looked good last year when he could pick out the strikers but lets remember we are not in the Championship this year, the teams are actually better. Sad to say but we are basically Championship Standard.