Newcastle United yet again laboured to a dismal draw against an already relegated Aston Villa side yesterday, meaning they have failed to win in their last 11 matches on the road.
What was so clear to the travelling support, was the lack of quality and attacking potency on show from both sides. It is undoubtedly clear that since the arrival of Rafa Benitez, the Spaniard has shored up United’s defensive woes, but the fact remains that goals win football matches, and in yesterday’s tense climate, goals evaded United when perhaps they needed them the most.
Goal-shy Papiss Cisse failed to add to his meagre goals tally for the season, featuring for just 49 minutes before he was hooked by Benitez, replaced by fan-favourite Aleksandar Mitrovic. Sadly, the Serbian could not aid Newcastle in their attempts to find the back of the net despite one clear-cut effort which looped over Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn, but also sailed over the bar.
The match lacked quality in attack, and was far from the free-scoring display that the 3,000 travelling Geordies had hoped for. As news filtered through late on that Sunderland had scored a vital third goal against Chelsea, the 0-0 that transpired at Villa Park became an increasingly frustrating affair.
Jack Colback arguably had the best chance of the game as the ball fell to his feet and from 12 yards out, blazed it over, much to the disappointment of Newcastle’s fans, players and coaching staff.
Villa meanwhile offered very little, both in terms of quality and spirit, much of the same that has seen them pick up a measly 17 points all season, however a rare clean sheet is one which the Villans’ fans took great pleasure in. Karl Darlow was rarely tested in the Newcastle goal and as the team in claret and blue set up to frustrate United, the match had all the hallmarks of a classic 0-0.
One thing was painfully clear however, and that was the fact that away from home, Newcastle cannot seem to muster enough decent chances to score from, and lack the mettle to find an opening when faced with the proposition of ten men behind the ball, much like the system Villa employed yesterday.
United’s two remaining substitutions were uninspiring, as both Perez and De Jong failed to make a marked impact on the game, when a dose of flair was needed to spark a typically dull game. One positive that can be drawn from the match is that the defensive set-up was yet again solid, but in United’s current situation, and against a poor Villa side, a 0-0 draw was simply not good enough, regardless of results elsewhere.
The result leaves Newcastle in dire need of a miracle to save them from what seems to be the inevitable drop, desperately needing Everton and Watford to gain victories over both Sunderland and Norwich. Even if that occurs, Newcastle would still have to beat 2nd placed Tottenham Hotspur at St James’ Park on the final day, to stand a chance of survival, due to inferior goal difference meaning a draw would still send United down.
It is extremely unlikely that Newcastle will survive the dreaded drop, and after yesterday’s dismal showing, it showed that a second relegation in seven years is almost a formality.
Faced with one of the worst Aston Villa sides in history, Newcastle could only manage 1-1 and 0-0 draws this season, the only club not to beat the 20th placed side. Some would say that spells relegation, which could be confirmed on Wednesday if Sunderland are to beat Roberto Martinez’s poor Everton side.