Newcastle travelled to St Andrew’s today looking to put the disappointment of last weeks loss at home to Fulham behind them and capitalise on Huddersfield’s thumping at the hands of Bristol City on Friday night.
Key team news would be the absence of Shelvey who would only make the bench following a week of illness. His omission from the starting line up would compound the continued absence of Hayden and Yedlin, whilst equally important would be Clark missing out through injury. Up front Rafa would also keep faith in Murphy with Gayle once more confined to the bench.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Colback, Gouffran (Atsu, 82), Perez (Shelvey, 78), Murphy (Gayle, 63)
The opening exchanges would be more like a chess match than the blood and thunder of a Championship match with Birmingham probably shading the first quarter of the game. The best chance for Newcastle in those early exchanges would be from Murphy, who’s flick on from a Ritchie corner would go narrowly wide.
Birmingham themselves were in equal need of a result in this one with just two wins in their last 10 games leaving them sitting 17th in the table and just 5 points above the relegation zone.
Both sides would have further half chances as the game moved towards half time. A tame free kick from Perez whilst Birmingham would see three or four half chances drift wide.
On 37 minutes Newcastle almost had the lead when Hanley put one over the top for Ritchie who, having beaten the rushing keeper, would then see the ball cleared by a back tracking Blues defender before Ritchie was able to slam home his 14 of the season.
Within a minute Newcastle did have the ball in the net with the first shot on target in the game. And again it would be Ritchie causing the Birmingham defence all sorts of trouble only to see his stabbed effort ruled out for offside.
Birmingham would force a late corner before half time but with that one coming to nothing both teams would head for the tunnel at 0-0 at the break.
Newcastle would start the half brightly in the second half and from another corner Newcastle would see Ritchie find Murphy again only for Kuszczak to the rescue for Birmingham beating a header that would have found the corner back into play.
Gayle would then enter the fray just after the hour and almost had an instant impact after his good work would set up Colback who’s effort would be deflected before the Birmingham keeper was forced to push that one behind for yet another corner.
Newcastle were dominating possession now and Birmingham seemed content to slow play and were happy to commit a foul or 20 in the process. The visitors just couldn’t make the most of a sting of dead ball opportunities however as they seemed to lack the quality and cutting instinct that Shelvey would bring with Ritchie and Perez wasting a number free kicks.
The introduction of Shelvey with 12 minutesa and then Atsu a couple of moments later would be Rafa’s last throw of the dice to break the deadlock with the game now getting stretched at both ends. It certainly seemed like there was a goal coming one way or the other.
But it wasn’t to be and Newcastle and their travelling fans would have to settle for a point.
The result leaves NUFC 7 points clear of Huddersfield in 3rd, although they do have a game in hand. Whilst we are just the one point ahead of Brighton who also have played one less.
Just 8 to play now as we seem to creep towards, hopefully, claiming one of the top two spots and a place back in the Premier League.
A break for 2 weeks now as International football resumes. Then it’s a home game against Wigan and a great chance to get back to winning ways at home.