Let’s face it, the last fortnight has been extremely disappointing. With just two points in their last three games, Newcastle seems hard pressed to string together a complete match.
Against Reading, the defense had a strong showing, limiting the Royals to a single shot on goal. However, the offense was severely lacking, giving up the majority of the possession and failing to score despite taking 13 shots, including five on goal.
The Fulham match was a full scale breakdown. Keeper Karl Darlow allowed three goals from four shots on goal. The defense was pulled apart by the Cottagers attack and the offense was nowhere to be found for the first 75 minutes of the match. Daryl Murphy’s goal was little more than consolation at that stage in the fixture.
The defense regained its composure against Birmingham City, allowing just one shot on goal and the midfield controlled possession by a heavy margin. This time the offense was paltry, snatching at chances throughout. There was no shortage of opportunities to break the deadlock with 17 shot attempts in the match. However, just three of them were directed towards goal and none of them found the back of the net.
Somehow, Newcastle still sit a point clear of Brighton atop the Championship table. There is a certain element of luck that comes with that, and one that the Toons cannot continue to rely on. Huddersfield has a game in hand on the top two and a win in that game would put them just four points behind Newcastle for first place. Nothing is guaranteed at this stage of the season.
In the midst of an international break, I trust that Rafa Benitez will take some time to tweak his lineups a little bit. Not to mention the break should give players like Dwight Gayle and Rolando Aarons a chance to make their way back to playing strength.
With recent results, Newcastle’s first game back against Wigan becomes all that much more important now on April 1. A loss there might spell some panic on Tyneside.