It could have been better. It was very nearly a great deal worse.
Newcastle United went into today’s game with Bristol City knowing that this was a great chance of putting 3 more points on the board in advance of three of the hardest games of the season, all away from home, and all over the next 10 days.
What transpired would be a horror show of a first half and a fighting second but ultimately two points dropped at home against the side starting 5th bottom.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Shelvey, Colback (Diame, 58), Ritchie, Perez (Gouffran, 79) Atsu, Mitrovic
Rafa would choose to make a couple of changes for this one, possibly with Tuesday’s game against Brighton in his thoughts. The team chosen certainly should have been good enough to win the game but by half time they’d find themselves with a mountain to climb after goals from Wilbraham and Cotterill had put the visitors into a unthinkable lead. However Shelvey would bundle the ball into the net after 59 minutes (credited to Smith as an own goal) before Clark would head home to save Rafa and his teams blushes.
And with confirmation at the final whistle that Huddersfield had been held to a draw at Barnsley after giving up a 1-0 lead it certainly could have been much worse for the Magpies.
Rafa will know his men will need to perform better than in this one if they are to take much from their next three games:
And although our leaking back line will be a concern, as will the continued absence of Gayle and Hayden, at least his NUFC side seem to be performing with less nerves away from home this season than they did once again at SJP this afternoon.
Victory for Brighton in the late game means Newcastle are now second in the table but still have a 5 point gap between themselves and Huddersfield whilst they are 9 points ahead of 4th placed Leeds with a game in hand. It certainly looks like 2 from 3 now for those top couple of automatic spots.
The game had started in typical recent fashion with Newcastle looking a little slow out of the blocks. And when Wilbraham nodded past Darlow after 11 minutes the home side should have been shaken into action. The goal looked a mile off side however replays at half time would be inconclusive. Next a mix up between Dummett and Darlow would gift the away side another goal. Dummett would head the ball back to the Mags keeper who himself had moved to pick up the ball following it's path. Darlow couldn't recover and Cotterill was left with the easiest of jobs to stroll through and place the ball into an empty net.
Rafa would need to give his troops a shake at half time and whatever was said certainly seemed to have an effect. Newcastle now dominating possession and pushing for goals would get one first from Bristol City defender Smith who couldn't keep out Shelvey's efforts to bundle the ball over the line. That would come with an hour gone but the home side would need to wait until the 82 minute for the second. This time a headed effort from a corner from Clark.
Despite a late charge and a great chance for Shelvey to nick all three points in injury time Bristol would hold on. As we say, two points dropped but it could have been a whole lot worse.