On Sunday against high-flying Sheffield United, Newcastle lost themselves, and pulled off a rampant and clinical display. Wednesday night’s tired and frustrating score draw saw a more authentic Toon performance return to our screens, despite an identical line-up.
Rather deliciously, Aston Villa are one of several relegation candidates as the business end of the season unfolds. In fact, had it not been for the successful vote on Project Restart, they’d already be planning for a return to the country’s second tier.
Instead, they had the temerity to travel all the way up from the Midlands and scupper what could have been a third straight Premier League win for Steve ‘Bruceyball’ Bruce.
Once again, the mercurial Allan Saint-Maximin showed he can turn on the style in an empty stadium, and still produce the substance. Turns, spins and dribbles all seemed to come off, and he used the ball far more intelligently than he did in his first couple of months on Tyneside. He’s becoming far less wasteful on the ball, bringing in teammates with simple but effective passes, while using his instinct more in the final third.
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— True Faith – Newcastle United Fanzine&Podcast (@tfNUFC) June 24, 2020
Joelinton battled and Miggy chased, but neither were able to pick up where they left off on Sunday. The midfield were pushed back by the determined visitors, particularly in the opening half hour, and notably the final 15.
Jack Grealish’s incisive dribbles and energy were a thorn in the side of the home side, and they might have gone away with all had Samatta and Trezeguet been more clinical with their chances.
But a late flurry of corners unnerved the defence in the closing stages. So much so that the usually reliable Martin Dubravka let a weak glancing header past him from old foe and substitute Ahmed El Mohamady. It would be a weak argument to suggest that Jonjo Shelvey on the near post put his goalkeeper off, it really was just an error from the No.1.
Bruce started to make changes after the hour mark, and it was his two striking subs that combined to give Newcastle a lead they probably didn’t deserve. A second goal from a throw-in in as many matches saw Carroll demonstrate composure and vision from the wing, sliding in Dwight Gayle for his first goal of the season.
When they said this will be football, but not as we know it, they weren’t fucking kidding. Joelinton and Gayle goals in back to back fixtures? Get this week archived permanently in the Discovery Museum.
Even when we were ahead for those 15 minutes, it would’ve always felt a bit fortuitous, a bit smash and grab. But Villa were hungry and their persistence to the final whistle was rewarded with a very valuable point. In the end, Newcastle were lucky to hang on.
If Bruce gets the team playing like they did at the weekend against Man City, then we may be able to put up a bit of a fight. If we put on another tired performance, as against the Vile, then that much-anticipated FA Cup quarterfinal ain’t gonna be pretty.
Adam Widdrington (@AddingRandomWit)