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Challenge laid down for Newcastle United – A plan to score goals and central midfielders that work

3 weeks ago
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Newport 1 Newcastle 1 (4-5 on penalties) – Wednesday 30 September 5.30pm

It must be a strange season so far for some Newcastle fans in particular.

Imagine those who have just been following the results and don’t watch the matches, their puzzlement when they read what other supporters have to say, who have been following the games on TV.

Simply looking at results, as Bruce’s mates in the media want us to, Newcastle United have played six games so far and won four drawn another and lost just once.

Four points from seven and into the last eight of a cup competition.

Well, all I can say is that ignorance is bliss and if you haven’t been watching the matches on TV, I would strongly advise that you keep on doing so!

Wednesday night in Wales was draining to watch on the box.

Steve Bruce believing that playing a lone totally immobile Andy Carroll up front was a brilliant plan, then Jonjo Shelvey standing next to the centre-backs and banging the ball forward to Carroll.

Well I assume that this was the plan and that Steve Bruce was happy with how it was going…because he made absolutely no move to change it!

A long range effort had bounced back off the bar in the fifth minute, with Abrahams sending a rebound back towards goal but a simple save. Oh. Mark Gillespie allowing the simplest of shots to somehow bounce weakly through him.

Still, at least plenty of time left for Newcastle to step it up, get control of the game, make that three tiers of extra class tell.

We are still waiting.

Instead, it was absolutely dire to watch as Newcastle huffed and puffed with seemingly absolutely no proper strategy or plan in place, on how they intended to score a goal. It felt very much like an NUFC Premier League match!

Newport may have been limited but they had an idea of what they wanted to do and played the better football first half, carving out a handful of decent situations but failed to really test the nervy Gillespie again, as their efforts flew off target.

At the other end, the Newport keeper was rarely troubled, certainly no onslaught. Carroll woeful and moves repeatedly breaking down as United lost possession. Jacob Murphy was the best of a bad bunch, willing to make runs and often dribbling past opponents, though handicapped by a lack of support and a poor end product from himself.

Jamal Lewis was getting up and down the left and looking lively but like Murphy, was getting little help from elsewhere.

With Jonjo Shelvey unwilling to break into more than a jog and not interested in pushing up the pitch, it is difficult to know how much of Sean Longstaff’s poor display you can put down to his supposed midfield partner. The older Longstaff brother having massively gone backwards under Bruce.

The arrival of Joelinton and Wilson in place of Wilson and Carroll made the difference with 28 minutes to go. It was no instant fix but at least Newcastle started playing some football and there was some decent movement up front, we have to pray Wilson doesn’t get injured this season because the alternatives up front are all but non-existent.

Joelinton was once again one of Newcastle’s best players when he was on the pitch, just as was the case on Sunday at Spurs. Nothing dramatic of course, no threat to goal, but tidy out on the left and indeed with approach play through the middle, to be honest I didn’t have a clue where he was supposed to be playing as he appeared to have a freedom to wander. We can only guess whether these were Steve Bruce’s orders or not, such is the mess of tactics and ‘strategy’ we see game after game.

Finally, as the game went into the closing stages, Newcastle started to force the issue as their League Two opponents tired. Especially as we got into the final ten minutes, some of the home side looked dead on their feet.

Jonjo Shelvey at last feeling obliged to get higher up the pitch as his opponents tired and Newcastle becoming ever more desperate for an equaliser.

With three minutes to go that moment came. Joelinton passing to Shelvey and as he pretended to shoot a couple of times the defenders left open the chance for a shot, the Newcastle midfielder putting an excellent effort into the top right corner.

Penalties duly followed with no extra time in these games.

Cool penalties from Murphy, Schar, Wilson and Sean Longstaff. Shelvey a little lucky to see his go unsaved, whilst a poor one from Joelinton was easily saved. Luckily the same happened at the other end with Gillespie getting the confidence boost of saving a weak effort from a Newport penalty taker, before then the final spot-kick was launched into the stand behind the goal.

Progress into the fifth round but this was anything but convincing and no doubt Steve Bruce simply left dreaming of another favourable draw, although the supply of League Two clubs has now completely dried up.

When ideas are so limited in trying to break down a League Two side, you do fear for Newcastle United in the Premier League when Steve Bruce’s luck eventually falls off a cliff.

Many Newcastle fans will keep looking at this NUFC squad and thinking that on paper we have a more than decent side. However, we can all be guilty of wishful thinking and believing the players on our side are better than they really are.

Newcastle need to defend better and have some kind of plan on scoring goals in the weeks and months ahead.

Hopefully Steve Bruce might start working on this at the training ground sometime soon…

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newport 1 Newcastle 1 (4-5 on penalties) – Wednesday 30 September 5.30pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Shelvey 87

Penalty Shootout – NUFC pens: Wilson scores, Joelinton’s saved, Schar scores, Shelvey scores, Murphy scores, Sean Longstaff scores

Newport:

Abrahams 5

Possession was Newport 35% (40%) Newcastle 65% (60%)

Total shots were Newport 12 (7) Newcastle 27 (8)

Shots on target were Newport 2 (1) Newcastle 10 (4)

Corners were Newport 4 (2) Newcastle 8 (1)

Referee: Josh Brooks

Newcastle United:

Gillespie, Manquillo, Fernandez, Krafth (Schar 72), Lewis, Fraser, Shelvey, Sean Longstaff, Murphy, Almiron (Wilson 62), Carroll (Joelinton 62)

Unused Subs

Darlow, Hendrick, Anderson, Hayden

Crowd: 00,000

(Jonjo Shelvey credits Steve Bruce for win – Says under Rafa would have just been ‘lumping the ball’ – Read HERE)

(Newcastle v Newport player ratings from fans after win on penalties – Painful! – Read HERE)

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Newport 1 Newcastle 1 (4-5 on penalties) – Read HERE)

(Newport 1 Newcastle 1 (4-5 on penalties) – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Wednesday’s win – Read HERE)

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