Think back to what we were like under John Carver and you’ll not be far off…
I hate these end of season games when we have nothing to play for.
Granted, it’s great to not be heading into these final few games crippled with anxiety, praying that we can manage to get the result we so desperately need but, equally, it’s none too appealing to watch a match that is essentially a dead rubber – from our perspective anyway.
When chatting to the editor beforehand, I actually predicted a 1-1 draw but felt neither confident nor pessimistic enough to put my money where my mouth was and share my thoughts with Paddy Power, so, I watched the game with an open mind – hoping for the best but, realistically, expecting a drab affair.
As anticipated, Almirón’s absence proved telling – we lacked his creative spark and imagination and reverted back to being our toothless one-dimensional old selves in the final third. That being said, we dominated the first half as Brighton put in one of the most insipid and inept displays that I’ve seen in a very long time – think back to what we were like under John Carver and you’ll not be far off….
Dummett’s ball in for the goal was a beauty and Rondón did exactly what Rondón is there to do and made his physicality count, to set Ayoze up for a smashing goal as the Spaniard continued his hot streak before the hip injury he sustained early on, finally forced him off just after the half hour mark. Despite utterly dominating the first half, that was about as good as it got for us.
Losing Ayoze seriously diminished our attacking threat, as his replacement, Kenedy, put in yet another lacklustre display. Sadly, the only positive thing I can say about Kenedy after that, is that he’ll be out of here in a couple of weeks and he won’t be coming back. He just never recovered from the disappointment of his penalty miss at Cardiff back in August and has been steadily going downhill since – thank God we didn’t blow the money that we ended up spending on Almirón on him last summer!
Unfortunately, a lack of clear-cut chances and some very poor refereeing meant that, for all our dominance, we went in just one goal ahead at the break – a break that was greeted by a chorus of boos from the home crowd. The fear was that the fans’ dissatisfaction and a half-time dressing down from Chris Hughton might breathe a bit of life into Brighton and so it proved.
They were a different animal in the second half and, in the end, we were lucky to hold on for a share of the spoils as Glenn Murray squandered a glorious late chance to seal the win as they turned the screw for the last 15 minutes, with Solly March looking particularly dangerous as he ran Javi Manquillo ragged.
The Spaniard had little joy down the right all evening and struggled to match Matt Ritchie’s energy and endeavour on the opposite flank. In truth, neither of them managed to get the ball into the box as often as they should have. Similarly, a surprise start for Jonjo Shelvey didn’t bring us much joy either as we struggled to create any meaningful chances and Shelvey was yet again upstaged by the ever-improving Isaac Hayden. I thought the wantaway midfielder was immense in the first half yet again as he hustled and harried and fearlessly flung himself into a number of crunching tackles. His performance level dropped off in the second period as we struggled to get to grips with Brighton’s new-found guile and directness but he wasn’t alone in that.
Indeed, the only player whose second half performance eclipsed his showing in the first 45 minutes was Fabian Schär as he made a number of vital blocks and clearances in the box as Brighton asserted themselves after the break. Fernandez was decent too after being handed only his second start in the last 16 league games but Lascelles was a big miss at the back – especially seeing as Dummett couldn’t quite manage to match his level of performance in last week’s win over Southampton.
All in all, a point away from home is always a decent result but our lack of killer instinct has cost us yet again. It’s been a serious source of frustration and disappointment all year and our failure to come away from the Amex with the win now leaves us two points off last season’s total with two games left to play.
The Liverpool love-in is surely a write-off but victory at Craven Cottage could still see us eclipse last season’s tally – a feat few would have thought possible late last October when Brighton’s win at St James’ Park left us propping up the table with a meagre two points from nine games.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Brighton 1 Newcastle 1
Possession was Brighton 49% Newcastle 51%
Total shots were Brighton 9 Newcastle 9
Shots on target were Brighton 2 Newcastle 1
Corners were Brighton 7 Newcastle 4
Referee: Mike Dean
Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey (Ki 73), Atsu (Muto 81), Perez (Kenedy 33), Rondon
Darlow, Yedlin, Barreca, Diame
Crowd: 30,587 (2,500 Newcastle)
(Rafa Benitez reacts after game, asked if any contact from Mike Ashley – HERE)
(You can read instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the game HERE)
(Chris Hughton reacts to the 1-1 draw HERE)
(Positives and Negatives from the match HERE)
(Match ratings and comments on NUFC players HERE)
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