As Newcastle United took the pitch on Saturday, feelings were as high Tyneside as they had been for a long time. The club were coming off of victories against Liverpool and Spurs – their first back to back victories in the league since the last installment of Alan Pardew's Miracle November™ – and there was some amount of belief that Steve McClaren had finally found the recipe to climb to the inevitable glorious mid-table finish. Another victory
Newcastle have a glorious history of donating points to those clubs less fortunate than themselves. For instance, during Derby County's worst-ever Premier League season in 2007-08, 4 of their 11 points came from Newcastle. In fact, if you look back at the previous 10 PL seasons and add on this season for good measure, Newcastle has amassed a mighty 5 W, 7 D, 6 L record against teams which entered the match in 20th place. This spans players, coaches, owners, directors of football. We are not good against bottom of the league teams.
Saturday was more of the same. The best thing that can be said about the match is that we didn't lose, which is important to remember. We've taken 7 points from our last 3 matches. It is irksome that we did not manage to defeat Aston Villa who by far have been the worst team in the division this year. The fact is that we should have won. We missed no fewer than six clear-cut chances in the match. Sure the conditions were atrocious, but if we had managed to hit even one of those chances (Gini? Mitro? Siem? Anyone?), we'd be telling a completely different story today. As it is, it is yet another result this season without a strong take away. Or is it?
Newcastle were leading 1-0 thanks to a Fabricio Coloccini "screamer" when Jordan Ayew produced an actual stunning goal to bring Villa level as his curling shot evaded Vurnon Anita's boot, beat Rob Elliot and hit the net just behind the far post. For the next 10 minutes (give or take), Aston Villa took the match at Newcastle relentlessly. This isn't the positive... it's what happened next. Instead of folding up and conceding and giving Aston Villa a real lifeline for their season, they managed to turn the tide back in their favor. While they failed to put them away, the majority of the late chances in the match fell to the Toon. On another day under different conditions, we probably take the points. It's not any consolation at all, really... but it's all we've got.
We will now be entering the holiday fixtures in 17th place. We are one point above the relegation zone and 3 points behind West Brom in 13th. It's the most Newcastle place to be after the most Newcastle result possible.
*PS: I know this isn't really a positive. It can't be viewed as such or else we are irretrievably broken. This is an attempt to not succumb to the "sky is falling" feelings that naturally follow a disappointing result against the last place team in the league. It doesn't really work, but... I tried.