Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 1 Huddersfield Town 2

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If we hadn’t already known before kick-off time, we know now.

Newcastle United will have to do it the hard way.

It was going to be hard enough getting out of the Championship.

But Newcastle have had a standing start, and six points have already slipped through their grasp.

Huddersfield Town took three all points home on Saturday as Jack Payne’s 82nd-minute goal gave them a 2-1 win.

In a division where the margins are extremely fine – Brighton and Hove Albion missed out on promotion last season because of goal difference – that’s a concern.

Yet there are more than enough points left to play for this season.

It’s too early to make any judgements. And it’s too early to judge the summer signings.

What is clear is that United still have work to do in the transfer market.

The club’s first two games in the Championship have underlined how important it will be to have a player up front capable of holding the ball up and playing with his back to goal.

For Newcastle, that player should be Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The striker is currently suspended and his absence has already proved costly.

United need another like him, as there are no guarantees that once he returns from a four-game ban that he will be suspension and injury-free for the rest of what will be a hugely-demanding campaign.

Dwight Gayle, handed the No 9 jersey on the eve of the campaign, again led the line against Huddersfield.

And it was another tough 90 minutes for the former Crystal Palace man.

The forward – who scored Newcastle’s second-half goal – will be better having a player like Mitrovic alongside him or in front of him.

United, however, must go into two more league games without him.

It was clear after the season-opener against Fulham that Benitez’s side needed to be nastier.

The Championship isn’t for niceties.

Benitez touched on this after the Huddersfield match when he bemoaned his side’s failure to “compete”.

Newcastle’s fans did their bit on what was dubbed ‘Black and White Day’.

They sold out St James’ Park and the atmosphere generated by the Gallowgate Flags initiative was phenomenal for a match in English football’s second tier.

Yet there were boos at the end the first half.

And at the final whistle, after more boos had dissipated, the only noise came from the 3,200 travelling Huddersfield supporters, who had seen their club record a first win at the stadium since 1953.

They’d deserved it, too. No complaints, no excuses.

United, even without the presence and physicality of Mitrovic up front, should have done better.

They had started well enough.

Benitez had made four changes, and Jonjo Shelvey, one of the players brought into the side, tried to make things happen in the early stages.

Shelvey played like he had something to prove. Unquestionably, the midfielder, signed for £12million in January, has a lot to prove this season.

An early chance came and went for Gayle – he headed wide – but Newcastle, for all their possession, struggled to carve out clearcut opportunities.

Their opponents were organised and disciplined. And they ran. And ran.

They pressed high up the field and unsettled Newcastle.

When they got the ball, they broke forward with pace and purpose.

Elias Kachunga struck the post in the 13th minute, and as the half wore on, Huddersfield – whose manager David Wagner is a disciple of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp – started to look more and more dangerous.

Nahki Well’s 45th-minute goal had been coming.

United didn’t cut out the cross to Wells, and they didn’t challenge the striker, who squeezed the ball past exposed goalkeeper Matz Sels.

Benitez responded by throwing a half-fit Matt Ritchie on for the second-half.

And the winger – who hadn’t been able to train in the build-up to the match – energised Newcastle, who won a penalty on the hour-mark.

Visiting captain Mark Hudson handled in the box, and Gayle netted at the second attempt with his head after Danny Ward pushed away his initial spot-kick.

United had the better of the half, but they looked vulnerable to Huddersfield’s counter-attacking game.

And an error from Chancel Mbemba, recalled to the starting XI, led to a second goal for Wagner’s side.

Substitute Jack Payne levelled in the 82nd minute, and, as at Craven Cottage, there was no way back for Newcastle, who take on Reading at St James’s Park on Wednesday night.

United need some confidence. With confidence, and momentum, the club could quickly climb the table over the coming weeks.

Benitez, however, admitted that there are problems at both ends of the pitch in his post-match Press conference.

Unless those problems are quickly solved, it really is black and white.

Without a big improvement in attack and defence, Newcastle won’t be going anywhere this season.

PLAYER RATINGS

NEWCASTLE

Matz Sels: Left badly exposed for both Huddersfield goals 5

Daryl Janmaat: Got forward and delivered some decent crosses, but there was no-one there to meet them 6

Chancel Mbemba: Not his usual assured self on his first appearance in the Championship 5

Jamaal Lascelles: Will know he should have done better 5

Paul Dummett: Another difficult afternoon for the left-back 5

Jonjo Shelvey: Started brightly and played some trademark passes, but quickly faded 6

Isaac Hayden: Again, a steadying influence in midfield 6

Vurnon Anita: Midfielder never looked comfortable with the pace of the game 4

Mohamed Diame: Looked off the pace after his recent move from Hull City 5

Rolando Aarons: Days after signing a new deal at United, he wasn’t able to play to his potential 5

Dwight Gayle: Scored his first competitive goal for the club, but otherwise found chances hard to come by 5

Substitues

Matt Ritchie (for Aarons, 46): Livened up United despite being short of fitness after missing training all week 7

Ayoze Perez (for Diame, 75): Wasn’t able to make an impact after his introduction 5

Adam Armstrong (for Janmaat, 82): Too little time on the pitch to make a difference. 6

Subs not used: Karl Darlow, Jesus Gamez, Ciaran Clark, Jack Colback.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Danny Ward 7

Tommy Smith 7

Mark Hudson 7

Jonathan Hogg 6

Elias Kachunga 7

Aaron Mooy 6

Chris Lowe 7

Rajiv van la Parra 7

Joe Lolley 7

Nahki Wells 7

Christopher Schindler 6

Subs: Kasey Palmer (for Well, 64) 6

Sean Scannell (for van la Parra, 72) 6

Jack Payne (for Lolley, 81) 7

Subs not used: Joel Coleman, Martin Cranie, Jon Gorenc Stankovic, Michael Hefele.

REFEREE

Oliver Langford (West Midlands): Got the big decision – the penalty awarded to United – correct 6

ATTENDANCE

52,079

GOOD DAY FOR:

This game kicked off amid a stunning show of support from Newcastle’s flag-waving fans at a sold-out St James’s Park, but it was Huddersfield’s 3,200-strong support who were signing at the final whistle, having witnessed a historic win at the stadium for their club. What’s more, their team deserved the success.

BAD DAY FOR:

Vurnon Anita, pictured. The 27-year-old impressed in pre-season, but the Holland international has struggled in both his Championship appearances. Anita – who refused to talk to journalists after the game – must now fear for his place in Rafa Benitez’s side, having been anonymous in his midfield role against Huddersfield.

KEY MOMENT:

Had Dwight Gayle taken his third-minute chance, this game could have turned out very differently. As it was, Gayle still found the net, but his first competitive United goal was no consolation.