This is the way our cup run ends, not with a bang but a whimper. A lacklustre Newcastle United outplayed on every front by Championship side Brentford. A manager out of his depth and out of excuses. What next? 

The team selection reveal the usual hour before the game didn’t fill me with dread – it was a decent set of players and a strong side. There was concern about our midfield; there is always concern about our midfield, but it seemed like Bruce was putting out one of our stronger starting elevens. Ivan Toney wasn’t starting for Brentford, which suggested to me that this was a side really going for promotion and letting that be their focus, not desperate to win tonight but not averse to the idea either.

A pretty uneventful first thirty minutes ensued. Brentford had a couple of chances, and so did we. That’s really almost all I can say about the action of the game, because there was precious little else. Karl Darlow saw a lot of the ball – not just from Brentford pressing but from our almost constant backwards passing. Almost every other ball found its way back to Darlow. Moving into the latter part of the half, Shelvey was playing some sort of centre back position and drifting into midfield when it seemed like he fancied it, but certainly not with any urgency or any attacking drive. To me this was not a player playing for his manager or team. He seemed almost irritated that he was playing tonight. We went into half time 0-0. 

It gets worse though, obviously, because this is 2020, and if you dare to think things can’t get any worse then 2020 will go out of its way to prove you wrong. In the entire second half United managed zero shots on target. Astonishing, really, when you consider that by the end of the match we had three centre forwards on the pitch. What exactly was the plan tonight? You could see that Brentford had one, and were able to adapt in game to our faults – namely leaving the entire right side of the pitch open for them to move up and down with ease. Was it backwards pass to Shelvey then knock it long and hope for the best? And when that failed, because it did fail, was it hoy all your strikers on like a kid playing Fifa? If I sound angry that’s because I am a bit. 

Unsurprisingly, Brentford scored. This was a one goal will win it game. They scored in the 66th minute, giving us loads of time to pull it back if we wanted. But that seemed to be just the problem. There was no drive tonight. There was no urgency. The problems at our club are bigger than the team being bad, and Steve Bruce not being up to the task, but something has got to give. We’re heading into a difficult run of fixtures with very negative momentum. Change cannot come soon enough. 

 

 

Charlotte Robson @charlottehope