West Brom 2-2 Newcastle United
Aiming to break their terrible recent run of 4 straight losses, Rafa made a raft of changes to the starting line up including welcoming back Merino and Hayden after injury whilst there were rare starts for Mbemba and Darlow between the sticks.
Perez would also return to the number 10 position as the boss tries to tighten things up whilst perhaps most eyebrows were raised on the announcement that Joselu would once again lead the line.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Mbemba, Hayden, Merino, Murphy, Perez, Ritchie, Joselu
Newcastle would look fairly solid in the first 10 minutes with good link up play from Ritchie, Yedlin and Joselu in particular. An early sighter from Jacob Murphy would go well wide of Foster’s goal before Newcastle’s number 7 would then win a free kick that would lead to nothing as both teams struggled to cause either keeper any real issues early on.
The Magpies were breaking with pace in purpose and after a foul on Perez after good work by the Spaniard to steel the ball back another dead ball situation would come to nothing.
With West Brom starting the game on 11 points, 3 behind Newcastle, this was of course a great chance to play a side who would be currently just as nervous especially in front of their own fans. And with no win in 11 games, since beating Burnley back in August, this was perhaps as good a chance for the Magpies to break their recent run as any. Just 10 goals all season too for West Brom meant they had their own issues in front of goal with Rondon and Rodriguez both on 2 goals in the league.
But it would be Rondon who would come closest to scoring the opener as his shot on 20 minutes would clip with angle of crossbar and post with Darlow completely beater and only able to watch in hope.
Some nice early touches from Murphy would give the travelling faithful something to enjoy on the half hour as those few signs of promise in recent games give the young winger something to build on.
The youthful exuberance of Merino and Hayden in the centre of the park were getting some joy out of senior pros of Livermore and Barry and Hayden would have the first shot on target in the game all be it a weak effort hit into the ground and comfortably into the keepers hands.
The best chance of the first half would be at the other end however with Rondon’s excellent turned cross being stabbed wide by Robson-Kanu.
With injury time singled as one minute all that would be left of course is for Newcastle to concede their customary stupid team talk changing goal - surely not - oh yes! Unbelievable this.
One long ball from Evans, Gibbs with the centre, Robson-Kanu with the finish. You couldn’t make it up could you!!
1-0 half time.
That’s 4 goals conceded in injury time in 4 games.
After Rafa had vented his spleen at half time given his visible anger at conceding so late again his message must have been ‘don’t conceded another’ as he send his players out for the second half. So to do so within just 10 minutes of the restart will have felt like the end of the game. Another cross, this time from Matt Phillips, would find Sam Field in the centre to make it 2-0.
After the influential Rondon could only steer the ball behind for a Newcastle corner, Ritchie’s centre would be met by Ciaran Clark to nod in fro close range. Game On!
Ben Foster then made an outstanding save from Ritchie only for Perez to be judged as being off side and interfering with play. The chance had been created by Aarons on to replace Murphy. Rafa’s next change would be a popular one with Mitrovic on for Joselu who, despite playing well in linking up play, did little in front of goal once more.
The game was pretty open now and with 15 minutes left it felt like another goal would come at one end or the other with Newcastle piling on the pressure and West Brom always looking dangerous on the counter.
Yedlin then won a free kick right on the edge of the box after being fouled by McClean. The resultant free kick would send the travelling fans into ecstasy. Ritchie centre, hit in with pace, would leave the West Brom defence all over the place and result in Jonny Even putting the ball past his own keeper.
With minutes running out Newcastle were hunting for the winner.
And with just a minute left Newcastle thought they’d won it. Shelvey found Yedlin who’s cross was stroked home by Mitrovic only see the linesman flag rightly raised for offside.
4 minutes of injury time, only this time if felt like Newcastle had the upper hand.
No such luck.
The game finished 2-2 but it will feel pretty satisfying for those who made the trip after a spirited comeback from 2-0 down.
Just the small matter of Chelsea away next, but at least an unwanted 5th straight loss was averted.