There were no diatribes and delusions. No immediate post-match investigation. The Newcastle United players didn’t need a reminder of what they had just let slip through their fingers as the dressing room fell silent after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Watford.
Newcastle were just minutes away from their second win of the campaign. Mere minutes away from overtaking Watford in the table and emerging from the relegation zone for the first time since September. Hanging on and claiming the three points would have been a massive moment in their season, dealing a psychological blow to a relegation rival in the process.
However, Joao Pedro’s 87th-minute header silenced St James’ Park after Allan Saint-Maximin previously gave the hosts an invaluable lead with a superb individual goal. It’s 21 points now that Newcastle have dropped winning positions.
Newcastle United transfer news LIVE
Heads were bowed and shoulders slumped as the Newcastle players came back to restart the game after Pedro’s punch. Was it any wonder Eddie Howe hoped that late goal ‘didn’t leave mental scars?’
Newcastle remain in 19th place and, depending on how results develop elsewhere in the coming days, the Magpies could be further adrift by Watford or even fall to the bottom if basement boys Burnley win one of their three games in hand against the Hornets on Tuesday. .
If Newcastle can’t overcome a relegation rival who previously lost seven on the rebound, it’s hard to see where the required wins are coming from, especially when the Magpies have already faced the Hornets, Burnley, Norwich, Leeds, Brentford and Southampton at home. this season.
With Newcastle again looking shaky at the back as the game progressed, worryingly Howe’s side also had just one shot on target against a leaky side who failed to keep a sheet white in the Premier League for almost two years.
Callum Wilson, watching from the stands, will have known how bad Chris Wood felt as Newcastle fell deeper and deeper and left the new signing isolated up front.
There are at least two weeks left in the window and, while clubs are particularly keen to keep fringe players as COVID ravages squads, the loan market will slowly start to open up. This could, however, prove crucial when it comes to securing additional players that clubs are not yet keen on selling on a permanent basis. One only has to look at Joe Willock’s impact last season to realize how important a lifeline that can prove to be.
Even Saint-Maximin was honest enough after the game to admit Newcastle ‘needed more help’ and the Frenchman went so far as to say ‘every player knows we need more players’ because ‘ you are not in this position for nothing”. .
Club owners will certainly agree on that but, strange as it may seem, Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood could prove to be the easiest signings Newcastle make this month.
Yes, there are quality centre-backs who would be willing to move but their clubs won’t sell in the mid-season window and that’s the problem Newcastle face – even before considering their position in the chart.
However, the hierarchy simply have to do everything they can to give the Magpies the best possible chance of staying in place – especially when there are still 54 points left to play.
Still, it was a missed chance against Watford. Before kick-off, Kieran Trippier said it was a “game to be won” and stressed there was “no shame in saying that”. Captain Jamaal Lascelles insisted the players knew “how big it is”. Chris Wood has revealed he can tell his team is “ready for it” after talking to his teammates. For Howe, it was about “coming back really strong”, after what had happened against Cambridge a week before, and “showing everyone that it was a blip”.
“We know the importance of this game,” he said. “I don’t have to communicate that to the players, of course.
“We are going to be motivated to give our best and hopefully we can show that in our performances.”
Howe made just three changes as the majority of players who failed against Cambridge had a chance to turn things around.
Wood, as expected, made his debut; Lascelles was fit enough to start; and there was a shock recall for Paul Dummett, who hadn’t played all season due to a calf problem.
Newcastle, roaring with deafening support, were understandably keen to get off to a quick start against a confidence-starved Watford side.
Newcastle rushed to take goal kicks, throw-ins and free-kicks in a bid to feed on the energy of the crowd as the Magpies focused their attacks down the right side, where Ryan Fraser and Kieran Trippier posed some problems for debutant Hassane Kamara. opening phases.
There were 10 minutes on the clock when Fraser’s cross from the right deflected Juraj Kucka’s header and, as the redshirts were drawn to Wood inside the area, Joelinton came in and hit the crossbar with its hooked effort.
It was a huge chance but, minutes later, Watford had their own opener when Saint-Maximin were taken in possession of their own half and the Hornets broke the rhythm as Newcastle tried to get back into shape . The ball eventually fell to Joshua King who fired safely under pressure.
It was a let go for Newcastle, but the Magpies continued to cause problems for Watford from wide areas.
Fraser played a one-two with Sean Longstaff after taking a short corner from the left midway through the first half and the winger swung in a teasing cross.
Watford players were once again drawn to Wood but, again, Joelinton made a late run. This time, however, the Brazilian flew wide.
The first 45 minutes had been tense and uneventful and the longer it went without a goal the more nervous it became inside the stadium.
The game demanded quality in the last third and Saint-Maximin delivered this moment of magic just a few minutes after the break.
Jeremy Ngakia seemed to have everything under control as he swept Jonjo Shelvey’s first ball into the channel, but Saint-Maximin chased the young right-back, forcing him into an error.
Saint-Maximin then rocked Ngakia before cutting inside and somehow firing past Ben Foster from a tight angle as three redshirts surrounded him.
The roof nearly came off St James as Saint-Maximin raced to the corner flag to celebrate with his teammates.
However, Newcastle, unwittingly, chose to protect what they had rather than go for that killer second against a Watford side who were truly there for the taking.
There is a fine line between risk and reward in situations like this. On the one hand, by going for a second, Howe’s team could have doubled their advantage but, on the other, the Hornets could have stung the Magpies at the break.
Either way, Newcastle opted to sit back hoping to cross the line as they did in their previous win over Burnley last month.
Watford were able to regain their composure and, although Ranieri’s side were in terrible form, the visitors responded as Newcastle held back.
Edo Kayembe slid a through ball into King’s path just after the hour mark, but Martin Dubravka rushed out of goal to make a smart save.
Then, a few minutes later, Lascelles tried to find Schar, his defensive partner, but the captain’s back pass through the halfway line was seized by Emmanuel Dennis.
Lascelles tried to make amends by sliding against Dennis but the striker simply slipped past the centre-back before feeding the ball to Moussa Sissoko, who failed to hit the target from close range.
It was a glorious opportunity, but there was still time for Watford to equalize and the Hornets landed a punch four minutes from time.
Kiko Femenia played a smart brace with fellow substitute Cucho Hernandez on the right which took Miguel Almiron out of the game.
Dummett rushed to cross but Femenia managed to swing the ball into the box and Joao Pedro rose above Lascelles to head level with Watford.
Newcastle fans fell silent before roaring defiantly as the players returned for the restart.
But there was to be no arrival in the stands.
We want to hear your thoughts, so LOGIN and leave your comment below.