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