Newcastle United 0-1 WBA
Season over?! That’s what it appears several of our players consider the status of our season to be after a dire home display against a West Brom side who’d have been relegated but for the the three points they eventually left St James Park with.
It prompted an angry post match press conference from Rafa Benitez as he warned his players ‘they don’t seem to realise that several of them are playing for their Newcastle United futures’.
Harsh but fair probably with only Diame (yet again) and Dubravka coming out of the game with any real credit.
The only surprise before kick off was perhaps the inclusion of Gayle ahead of Slimani with most expecting the lad on loan from Leicester would be given further game time to prove his potential value to this side.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett (Murphy, 58), Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez (Joselu, 78), Gayle (Slimani, 65)
Newcastle’s performance could be pretty much summed up in the substitution of Dummett. The normally hard working, well organised and dependable left back although not blessed with creative talent and a bucket full of goals will at least give you all of his positives in abundance. Just like United, all of those things were missing today and it was thoroughly unsurprising to see him get the hook on 58 minutes. Had Rafa been allowed 9 subs today’s he’d have probably used the lot!
Anyone looking to play the ‘stats’ game will wonder what the fuss is all about. Newcastle with 64% possession, 19 shots to WBA 11, 5 corners to Albion’s 1. As so often, the stats tell so little of what really happened.
52,283 fans crammed into St James Park and, with only a handful from West Brom, it was a cracking turn out front he black and white faithful - flags at the ready.
The game also market the 100th of Lascelles time in a black and white shirt. One that he will want to forget too.
The result could and should have been different, as Kenedy in particular could only strike the outside of the post with only the keeper to beat from 8 yards out.
There is little to say about the game. Slow in the build up from both sides. Passes going astray every two minutes. Players seemingly wearing moccasins not studs with their consistent slips and falls. West Brom’s goal was at least very well taken. A switch of play from Jake Livermore would find Matt Phillips unmarked on the right side of the box and his touch and shot would be assured and clinical.
As well as the Kenedy miss, possibly his last ever game in a black and white shirt at St James Park given he can’t play against his parent club of Chelsea on the last day of the season, there was also one wonderful save from Foster when a Dwight Gayle header looked certain to end up on in the back of the net on 45 minutes.
That would be about it for Newcastle’s threat as in the second half they created very little.
Even the late entry of Slimani and Joselu and the resultant high balls into the box wouldn’t create another clear cut opportunity, although the latter did mis-control on his thigh when a better touch would have seen him have a clear sight at goal. Typical of his season in front of goal.
Slimani’s main contribution may see retrospective action brought against him after kicking out at his opposite number as the West Brom man showed him a clean pair of heels. The sort of petulance that prompted Rafa to lose faith Mitrovic. Not a good sign!
Yet again, just as against Everton, the result will serve as a timely reminder to all those at Newcastle that there is significant work to do this summer. And with the vultures circling for Rafa’s services too it feels like there area few big weeks ahead.