Updated: Feb 16
Newcastle United welcomed Norwich to St James Park this afternoon knowing that a win could move then into the top half of the table and possibly just two wins away from safety this season.
However, having suffered once at the hands of the Canaries this terms, a 3-1 reverse at Carrow Road, all in black and white knew that there was no room for complacency.
And wary Newcastle should have been. Norwich dominated the play and had most of the chances from start to finish, also having most of the clear cut chances with both Pukki and Duda both missing glorious chances to win the game.
In the end though not even the usual jammy late winner for Newcastle would rescue the mood. Dire from the start, handing on against the bottom side by the end. Awful.
Bruce had restrained himself from dropping new boys Lazaro and Rose straight into the first team, with Bentaleb making his second start for the Magpies after playing against Oxford in the Cup last weekend. Both, however, made the bench.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin (Lazaro, 54), Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie, Hayden (S Longstaff, 57), Bentaleb, Almiron, Saint-Maximin (Rose, 78), Joelinton
Saint-Maximin was the first to sting the palms of either keep after being set free in the opening exchanges but the Frenchman’s effort was comfortable enough for ex-Mag Krul.
One thing was clear from the start, just as in the first game between these sides, the high possession style that Norwich adopt was going to serve them well against a Newcastle side who are happy to let the opposition play that way.
And on 7 minutes, after the visitors had forced a corner, Dubravka was forced into making a point blank save from Byram.
Saint-Maximin had the crowd on their feed again on the 15 minute mark with a run and cross that almost allowed Yedlin to drift in at the back post. The ball being smuggled behind for a corner.
Next it was Pukki to force Dubravka into a smart save with the United keeper having to push a powerful effort wide for another corner.
Back up the other end and it would be the turn of Krul to be forced into action. Some fantastic work from Yedlin ended in a great cross to Joelinton who did everything right in hitting the target and forcing the Norwich stopper into great save. Almiron then somehow putting the rebound wide when anything on target would surely have put United 1-0 up. Should have scored!
A huge chance for Norwich next as Rupp send Pukki clean through but but somehow Fernandez found the pace to get back and throw himself in front of the Finnish striker just as he pulled the trigger.
The worry for Bruce would be just how much of the ball the Norwich were having and the number and quality of chances being created by the Canaries. United, somehow, crawled to half time at 0-0. Dire!
No changes in personnel at half time would be a surprise to some, with Bruce seemingly happy to plod on with the same team and formation he’d thrown into the first half.
The first big chance of the second half almost lead to a goal for Newcastle, with Hanley deflecting a cross towards his own goal only for Krul to get down and tip if around the post.
There would be half chances for substitute Sean Longstaff and Saint-Maximin who’s shot was deflected just wide before Norwich had a golden chance to get themselves ahead after a mistake by Lascelles with Pukki clean through only to find Dubravka unbeatable and Duda hitting the side netting after the ball was hooked off the line.
Quite how Newcastle weren’t behind in this one, we have no clue. Against an even slightly better side the game would have been gone for United well before the hour mark.
There was a debut for Rose, who would enter the fray for Saint-Maximin who’d done all he could to ignite the game. But it was Norwich who continued to push for the elusive winner with the clock ticking down.
Newcastle’s last 3 Premier League goals have all come in injury time but this time it seemed only one team was going to nick it, with United sitting deep and conceding two late corners.
But United would hold on and grab an unlikely point in front of 52,204 fans who didn’t seem to enjoy a single moment of it.
There were big games elsewhere at the bottom of the table, with Bournemouth finding a way past Villa, 2-1 and West Ham and Brighton sharing the spoils at the London Stadium.
Somehow, this team, under this manager, finds itself in the top half of the table at full time.