An opportunity missed today at St James Park as Newcastle yet again couldn’t find a way past the visiting side. This time the visitors were Brighton and whilst Newcastle could possibly consider themselves unlucky not to have taken all three points from this one the truth of the matter is the performance just wasn’t good enough against a poor, fellow promoted, side.
The players will no doubt point to a couple of find saves from Brighton’s Australian International goalkeeper as the reason for this latest failure at home as Mat Ryan did make a couple of outstanding saves. But with only two attempts on target in the whole game for the black and whites the home fans certainly were expecting more form their players during this one.
Rafa would ring the changes once more before this one, and there was little complaints from those in the ground when the team was announced. Two up front, in Gayle and Joselu, whilst Merino was also installed back into he side with Shelvey dropping to the bench. Darlow would be between the stick with Elliot picking up a knock that is likely to keep him out for a number of weeks.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie (Perez, 72), Hayden, Merino (Shelvey, 76), Atsu, Joselu (Murphy, 84) Gayle
Yet another sell out crowd of 52,209, with a healthy contingent travelling from the south coast, would watch on as both teams would struggle to create any real moments of quality.
Newcastle had started quite brightly with Atsu in particular looking lively but it wouldn’t take long for the visitors to seize on the edgy atmosphere in St James. A couple of early corner for Brighton wouldn’t lead to any chances of real note and it would take until the 20th minute for a shot from Gayle to register the first real action from either keeper.
For Newcastle it really has been a story of underperformance from so many of the players that ‘tuned up’ last season. None more so that Ritchie who one again looked a shadow of his former self. And when his poor clearance just before the half hour landed at the feet of Knockaert the Scotsman would be grateful to see the resultant effort hit straight at Darlow. Ritchie would contribute little in this one before again being substituted for a resurgent Perez with 20 mins left.
With the scores level at half time it would be up to Rafa to raise the spirits of his troops again. And Newcastle almost did break the deadlock just after the break when first a Hayden shot was well saved before Lascelles header would be planted just wide.
Then just before the hour mark a great cross from Atsu was met by the head of Gayle but again the Brighton keeper was equal to it tipping the ball away when it looked a certain goal.
Next it was the turn of Darlow to make a spectacular save after a Dunk header before yet another fall in the box from Gayle in front of a Gallowgate would give referee Anthony Taylor something to think about, again no penalty (just as in the City game), again the correct decision.
Neither team would manage much of a chance from that point on as the game would drag on to a goalless draw. You’d expect Chris Houghton will be far the happier manager after this one.
The draw does at least bring to an end an awful run of 5 straight losses at home but will do little to ease the sense of nervousness around the club with a critical game in two days time away to Stoke next up for the Magpies.
We’d have taken 4 points from the two games before the start of this one, it feels like a mammoth task to hit that tally now!