Grim on the Tyne
Just over a year ago, a late goal earned us a 1-1 draw at Newcastle and I headlined my report A Point on the Tyne is all ours, but there was nothing to get excited about last night in our 2-0 defeat at St. James’ Park.
Two months ago, when we came off the pitch after losing 5-1 against Everton, things didn’t look too good. We were in the bottom three and were three points behind Cardiff who held the safe position of 17th. We’d won only three games in the first half of the season and it was beginning to look as though we might need some kind of miracle to stay up.
Since, and before last night, things have undoubtedly changed. Five wins and three draws from the subsequent eight games have propelled us up the table, six points clear of the bottom six and brought us closer to other teams, even passed some of them.
An eight game unbeaten run in the Premier League was unprecedented but it all came to an end last night with what really was a very disappointing performance and we can have absolutely no complaints that we came home without a point.
Travelling north is a rare event for a league game and last night was only our third visit to St. James’ Park since late 1982. The previous two had been drawn and there was no reason to suggest we couldn’t get something from this game, more so given just how well we’d played against Spurs three days earlier.
We arrived late afternoon and parked in our usual spot close to the river before making our way into town for something to eat and then up the hill to the ground before climbing (or lifting in my case) high into the Gods, the designated area reserved for away fans. Yes, it’s far better than being stuck at the front, but it really is too high to be honest although preferable to the away end at Sunderland.
Sean Dyche was forced into a team change. Ashley Westwood, who he’d rightly singled out for praise ahead of the game, was taken ill and had returned home. Jeff Hendrick moved into the centre of midfield with Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson coming in for his first league start since the win at Huddersfield at the beginning of January.
Although Newcastle started the better of the two sides, they weren’t over impressive themselves. We just didn’t look right at all. We struggled both in and out of possession, when in possession we too often took the wrong options and the one saving grace was that they didn’t look too much better and weren’t really threatening us.
I recall looking at the clock at 21 minutes and thinking that all we needed to do was step things up a little bit and this lot were there for the taking. We didn’t, and to make it worse they produced the one real piece of quality just a few minutes later when Swiss defender Fabian Schär gave them the lead out of the blue.
From a vantage point high above it, I first thought Tom Heaton had touched his 30-yarder into the net, but the superb striker actually hit the inside of the post. Tom did incredibly well to get over and close to it but in reality had absolutely no chance of keeping it out.
We needed a response. We didn’t really get one although Martin Dúbravka did save well to deny Chris Wood as we tried to get back into the game.
Newcastle hadn’t really looked as though the goal had lifted them but they then got a second seven minutes before half time. Matt Ritchie’s ball in from the left was headed by Ben Mee but only as far as Sean Longstaff who volleyed home.
I didn’t see a way back from there but we should have scored right on half time when Ashley Barnes headed the ball down for James Tarkowski who looked to have the simplest of tasks. He missed the target and we went in at half time 2-0 down. A goal then and things might just have been different in the second half.
Robbie Brady came on for Dwight McNeil. The youngster has come in for a lot of praise recently, and with just reason, but he was way off it last night and he looked as though he needed a rest.
It was always going to be an uphill battle but we did give it a go after Newcastle came close to making it three, only to see an effort kept out by Heaton. They then reverted to type and ensured they protected their lead.
It was always going to happen. We were never going to continue unbeaten for the remainder of the season. Now it is all about how we react to it. The target remains to get enough points to ensure we stay in this league and I don’t think we need too many more. I honestly think we’ll be fine, but we don’t need too many performances like the one last night.
The teams were;
Newcastle: Martin Dúbravka, Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schär, Jamaal Lascelles, Florian Lejeune, Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Pérez (Joselu 87), Isaac Hayden, Sean Longstaff (Mohamed Diamé 85), Miguel Almirόn (Paul Dummett 80), Salomon Rondόn. Subs not used: Karl Darlow, DeAndre Yedlin, Ki Sung-yeung, Christian Atsu.
Yellow Card: Sean Longstaff.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Robbie Brady ht), Ashley Barnes (Peter Crouch 71), Chris Wood (Matěj Vydra 83). Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Ben Gibson, Stephen Ward.
Yellow Cards: Ben Mee, Jeff Hendrick, Peter Crouch.
Referee: Craig Pawson (Sheffield).
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