Ciaran Clark reveals the painful lessons learnt from Newcastle's draw at Villa
Ciaran Clark has told of his frustration after Newcastle United were denied a win over Aston Villa by a late, late show at Villa Park.
An 88th-minute goal from Aaron Tshibola saw Rafa Benitez’s side held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.
Newcastle had led through an own goal from Tommy Elphick.
United had dominated the first half, but they couldn’t convert their chances.
And Roberto Di Matteo’s side – who laid seige to the visiting goal in the last 15 minutes – claimed a point thanks to Tshibola’s far-post header.
Clark, signed from Villa in the summer, felt Newcastle got “sloppy” in the second half, a sentiment echoed by Benitez in his post-match assessment of the Championship game.
“We were very disapointed, considering we conceded so late,” said the defender.
“We were under a lot of pressure in the second half. We managed to hold out. They had a lot of corners and put a lot of balls into the box, which we managed to deal with.
“It was just that one slip, and the ball was in the back of the net and it was a draw.
“Overall, it’s probably a fair result. We controlled the game first half with the tempo, but second half we got a bit sloppy.
“We’ll look at that, and hopefully we can improve on that in the games we’ve got this week.”
Clark, booed by some Villa fans on his return to the stadium, put in a commanding man-of-the-match performance alongside captain Jamaal Lascelles in the heart of Benitez’s defence.
“Obviously, I was excited to come back,” said the 26-year-old. “I had a buzz to want to do well.
“It was nice to come back and see some familiar faces and people I keep in touch with.
“But once you get here you have to concentrate on the football. I felt we did that.
“Three points would have been nice, but we’ll take a point.
“There was a lot of pressure last 20 minutes. We got a bit sloppy, and got punished for that. We’ll look at that over the next few days, and hopefully we can improve on that.”
Clark has been in and out of Benitez’s starting XI since joining United.
“I’m happy with the last few games I’ve played,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“We all know the way it goes here. We’ve got a big squad and top-quality players. We’ve all bought into the way we’ve been rotated and kept fresh for certain games. We’re all happy with that and know how it goes.
“We know the drill. If I wasn’t selected (against Villa), that’s the way it would have been.
“I would have wished the lads all the best and given them 100% support.”
The result left United fifth in the Championship ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against leaders Norwich City.
“We’ve got to keep going as we are and keep trying to improve,” said Clark.
“We’ll take each game it comes. It’s a very strong division. It’s been shown over the previous years that you can’t take any game for granted.
“No matter who you play, you’ve always got to stay focused. It’s going to be a tough few months, and we’ll take it game by game.”
Benitez, frustrated that United hadn’t capitalised on their first-half dominance, told of his disappointment after the match.
And Clark expects a full debrief ahead of the Norwich game.
“He sees things where we can improve, and he lets us know,” said Clark.
“I think over the next few days we’ll be looking at the game and seeing where we went wrong. We’ll get all the information about that and told how he need to put it right and move forward.”
Asked if the team learnt something from the second half, Clark added: “We definitely stayed strong. There was a lot of pressure on us. We managed to stay strong up until 88 minutes. We’ll do that for the rest of the season. It’s a point on the board, and we’ll take that into the next game.”