Newcastle Utd 1 (Saint Maximin 44)
Leeds United 1 (Raphinha 13)
That was another tough game, and perhaps the worry for Leeds is just how tough it was against a team that, by most observers reckoning, is destined to be fighting a relegation battle this season; at least that seemed to be the feeling amongst the Toon Army as they continually sang “We want Brucey out!” throughout the game.
Judged purely on the first half performance of the Magpies I’d say their fans are not far off the mark too. Newcastle are by far the most one dimensional side we’ve faced yet this season, their sole weapon being a long ball down the channels for the lightening quick Saint Maximin to chase. You have to admit it gave us plenty of trouble though, such that, despite creating numerous good chances ourselves and getting a fortunate opening goal when Raphinha’s curling left-foot cross deceived everyone to bounce inside the back post, by half time we’d allowed the mercurial Saint Maximin the freedom of our penalty area to skip past numerous tackles before cutting the ball back past Meslier to ensure the first half ended level at one apiece. Leeds could only wonder where we’d left our shooting boots.
The second half was a more even affair and with injuries depriving us of Raphinha and Luke Ayling meaning we ended the game with Tyler Roberts and the debutant young Crysencio Summerville on the wings and Jamie Shackleton at the back. In those circumstances, most of our fans will probably reflect that an away point in the Premier League and having survived several half decent chances carved out by the home side, is actually not to be sniffed at.
There is no doubt that Leeds were brighter in this game than we’ve seen so far this season, and the good news is that the chances were there. The bad news is that our finishing was dire with numerous poorly struck or badly aimed shots often failing to test the home keeper. Several of our players still look a bit “flat” to me too. Sure, Kalvin Phillips was immense again, operating at full tilt all over the pitch and thankfully allowed to do his job pretty much unencumbered by an unusually lenient Mike Dean in the middle. I’ve heard many fans noting that Rodrigo looked back to his best as well and, while I wouldn’t go that far , I would at least admit that he was more involved than in any previous appearance this season. There does seem to be a stamina issue for the £27m man though. From midway in the second half he looked totally out of fuel and that continually meant he clearly couldn’t do what he was trying to do; he just didn’t have the energy left. Maybe this is actually the main issue holding him back.
There were others who performed reasonable well but we know can do better; Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas look shadows of the dynamic players who propelled us up the table in the second half of last season while Matty Klich had his granny’s slippers on again when he was shooting. I still don’t think Raphinha has found last season’s form either while the pace of the Newcastle breaks tested Liam Cooper to his absolute limit. He just about coped while thankfully Illan Meslier was his usual assured self, giving confidence that when the Toon did get through, either their equally poor finishing or Meslier’s alertness saw us though. Junior Firpo is starting to get more involved too, but again there must be a lot more to come from him once he can strike up a partnership and understanding with his left winger.
I enjoyed the game, although I didn’t enjoy the 9 hours of driving to and from the North East; I’m convinced that Friday night is the worst kick-off time of all as far as the traffic is concerned! Yes, I enjoyed the game and, at the end of the day, a point is a point as they say. It was though yet another result that is worse than we achieved last season in the same fixture and we have to reverse that situation quickly. Only in the Everton home game have we gained more points this season than we did last . The thin squad and the current injuries will make that more difficult and the visit of West Ham is sure to be another huge test if we can’t suddenly get everyone back to their best. These are not yet worrying times but the slow start, the injuries, and the apparent improvement in most other teams is proving to make our second season in the top flight look a lot tougher than the first.
Newcastle Utd Leeds Utd
Possession 35% 65%
Shots 17 22
On Target 7 9
Corners 4 5
Fouls Committed 9 11