Newcastle fans endured yet another frustrating afternoon at St James Park.
Rafa’s players making it five defeats out of five at home, so a gap of six months without a victory at St James Park.
After being gifted a soft goal from a corner, Brighton retreated to protect their undeserved lead.
As the team attacked repeatedly, the tension simply grew for Newcastle fans.
For all the possession and shots, the visiting keeper had very few shots to save. NUFC pretty clueless/toothless when it came to being able to exert any real threat.
Naturally at times like this you think of substitutes to change the game, which is where it all felt really bizarre yesterday inside SJP.
The supporters were desperate for changes to be made but when mentally reminding themselves of exactly who the options were, it was a real grinding of teeth, rather than demanding a particular sub came on.
Put simply, Newcastle fans were desperate for players to come on, just not any of the seven we had sitting there at the side of the picture.
Darlow, Schar and Manquillo were there to cover the back, which left Hayden, Atsu, Murphy and Joselu.
The latter three came on at Manchester United and helped turn the game, in favour of the Mancs, so what should Rafa Benitez do?
Isaac Hayden? A player who has made it clear he doesn’t want to be at Newcastle and who is a defensive midfielder offering little/nothing going forward.
It was Joselu who came on in the end, the decision met by boos from the crowd. To be fair, the boos appeared to be aimed at the choice of taking Muto offer as opposed to Perez, rather than the choice of Joselu coming on. Although saying that, I don’t think anybody wanted Joselu to come on either, I just think the boos weren’t aimed at him.
In a must win game, it is a bit strange that from his admittedly limited resources, Rafa didn’t include one or two more attacking choices on the bench.
I think Atsu and Murphy are a complete waste of time so I’m not surprised they didn’t come on, but why leave bot Ki Sung-yeung and Sean Longstaff completely out of the picture?
Neither Shelvey or Diame like running with the ball, nor are they great at it, whereas Ki does have that as a big part of his game.
Newcastle kept looking to pass and cross it but just maybe Ki could have ran at the Brighton defence and maybe quick one-twos around the box, which we seem incapable of doing, could have produced something. Ki hasn’t even made the Newcastle bench for the past month but played for South Korea this past week, so clearly no injury problems.
As for Sean Longstaff, he was prevented from going out on loan this summer but hasn’t had a single minute on the pitch, he didn’t even make the bench yesterday. What is the point?
He went to League One Blackpool last season and scored nine goals from midfield, almost every one of them a long-range stunner. With the likes of Diame and Shelvey, indeed next to nobody in the team apart from maybe Kenedy, having any kind of real possibility of scoring from distance, why not give somebody such as Longstaff 20 minutes and encourage him to shoot on sight?
Brighton’s strength is a well organised defence and Newcastle very rarely looked like getting any joy, especially with the poor and aimless crosses that went in.
Sean Longstaff turns 21 in nine days time so isn’t exactly a kid, England routinely have given a number of players their chance in recent times who are 21 or less.
To make matters even more depressing, it isn’t exactly as though we have been crippled by numerous injuries of attacking players who we are looking forward to returning. Salomon Rondon is the only one and if our season truly rests on his return, then that sums up how fragile Newcastle’s chances of survival are.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Brighton 1
Brighton: Kayal 29
Possession was Brighton 32% Newcastle 68%
Total shots were Brighton 8 Newcastle 27
Shots on target were Brighton 2 Newcastle 6
Corners were Brighton 2 Newcastle 10
Referee: Andre Marriner
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez, Muto (Joselu 74)
Darlow, Atsu, Murphy, Schar, Hayden, Manquillo
Crowd: 50,329 (Brighton approx 1,300)
(Can these statistics from Newcastle 0 Brighton 1 be misleading? Read HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the defeat HERE)
(Match ratings of all NUFC players v Brighton HERE)
(Lee Charnley “We’ll do better when we play the lesser teams” – Read HERE)