Miles Starforth's match analysis: Stoke City 1 Newcastle United 0
Wednesday nights at Stoke don't come much wetter and windier than this.
And Newcastle United couldn’t do it on this particular night at the Britannia Stadium.
They were close to taking what would have been a hugely-important Premier League point from Stoke City.
Steve McClaren’s side had fought all game – against the wind and their under-par opponents – and were just nine minutes from seeing the game out.
But Xherdan Shaqiri had other ideas.
The midfielder wrong-footed goalkeeper Rob Elliot with a left-footed shot from just outside the box to hit the only goal.
Newcastle were spirited enough on an dreadful night, but it wasn’t enough. Again.
Shaqiri’s 81st-minute goal condemned the club to a sixth successive away defeat – seven in all competitions – and relegation is looking more and more of an inevitability for second-bottom United.
McClaren and his players are running out of time.
Newcastle’s 1,622 travelling applauded McClaren’s side off the pitch at the final whistle.
But patience is wearing thin on Tyneside, where a chill wind is blowing to rival that which whistled through the Britannia Stadium.
And McClaren’s judgement was questioned by fans late in the game.
Inexplicably, the head coach brought on Emmanuel Riviere ahead of Ayoze Perez, who was later given just six minutes on the pitch.
There was a chant of “you don’t know what you’re doing” as Riviere waited to come on for the injured Yoan Gouffran.
Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland had been the man of the match at St James’s Park early this season when the two sides played out a goalless draw.
This time, however, he had little to do until substitute Seydou Doumbia tested him with an injury-time effort.
McClaren, without the injured Andros Townsend, handed Gouffran a surprise recall to his team.
Gouffran was chosen to play on the left ahead of Perez and Rolando Aarons.
Paul Dummett, Jack Colback and Jamaal Lascelles also returned to his starting XI at a bitterly cold Britannia Stadium, a ground with a micro-climate of its own.
One thing the first half hour wasn’t was entertaining. It was awful, at best.
Rob Elliot had a bit to do – the Newcastle goalkeeper punched and caught a series of balls in his box – but Stoke didn’t look like scoring.
United, however, weren’t able to play a telling ball themselves, and striker Aleksandar Mitrovic – who had been sidelined with a knee injury during the club’s 18-day break – had little to work with up front.
Those behind him battled and scrapped against Stoke and the wind that was gusting and whistling through the three open corners of the ground.
January signing Jonjo Shelvey, handed the captain’s armband in the absence through injury of skipper Fabricio Coloccini, wasn’t able to get on the ball and dictate the game, as he has done at St James’s Park.
And a scrappy half ended goalless.
Newcastle’s players – who had been 3-0 down at half-time the last time they took to the field – were given encouragement by the travelling fans as they left field at the break.
Stoke threatened in the second half – Ibrahim Afellay volleyed over Elliot’s goal – but chances on goal were few and far between at both ends of the pitch as conditions worsened.
United’s fans chanted for the introduction of Perez at the hour-mark.
Newcastle needed a change up front, but McClaren waited. And waited.
Perez, strangely an unused substitute for the Magpies’ previous two games, warmed up, but McClaren replaced the injured Gouffran with Riviere.
And Perez watched from the touchline in frustration as Shaqiri took the ball from substitute Mame Diouf on the edge of the box.
Perez and Doumbia eventually made it on to the pitch.
United rallied, but it was too little, too late.
Marko Arnautovic struck the crossbar at the other end of the pitch as Stoke finished on top.
Spring might be approaching, but the outlook is looking increasingly bleak for Newcastle.