It is not football as we know and love, with the players’ voices echoing around stadiums across the country, more likened to a Sunday League game. Newcastle United started off sluggishly, a similar start to Sunday against Sheffield United. The majority of the players looked tired and very leggy.
During the opening exchanges Aston Villa were the better of the two sides, with their captain, Jack Grealish trying to influence proceedings. The more the game went on the more Newcastle grew into the game. The likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Jonjo Shelvey began to influence the game a lot more than in the opening exchanges.
Newcastle thought they were on course for 3 straight wins when substitute Dwight Gayle opened the scoring in the 68th minute. The goal came from Andy Carroll, another substitute who brought the ball down beautifully, before cutting the Villa defence open with a fantastic pass to Gayle, who made no mistake with the finish.
As is somewhat of a norm, Newcastle began to sit back and allowed Aston Villa to control the game. The visitors were rewarded for their endeavour in the 83rd minute, when Ahmed Elmohamady squeezed in Conor Hourihane’s corner at the near post. Shelvey was obstructing Martin Dubravka’s view for the equaliser, however, the Newcastle goalkeeper will be extremely disappointed to have conceded in such fashion.
There were concerns over Steve Bruce’s selection, the Newcastle manager opted for an unchanged side from the win against Sheffield United. Many thought Bruce should have rotated the side, with an FA Cup Quarter Final against Manchester City on the horizon.
Neither manager would be completely satisfied with a point a piece, however, Newcastle move to 39 points and Premier League football all but assured for another season. Aston villa continue to struggle and with a tough run of fixtures, needed more than just a point at St James’ Park.
Bruce will be delighted with the impact his substitutes made, Carroll was particularly impressive when introduced. With Manchester City up next, Bruce will hope that star man, Saint-Maximin is fit enough to start three games in the space of seven days. The Frenchman has been Newcastle’s man of the match in the two games since the return of the premier League.
There was something weirdly satisfying about this performance, with all the uncertainty in the world, Newcastle United are still making things difficult for themselves.