'Will only get better' – Out of contract defender could have a big role to play in Newcastle United's fight for survival

There was a surprise starter for Newcastle United against Watford on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 16th January 2022, 4:00 pm

In a match which saw Chris Wood and Kieran Trippier make their Premier League debuts for The Magpies, defender Paul Dummett returned to the side for his first appearance of the 2021-22 campaign. Dummett hadn’t featured for Newcastle since the final game of last season at Fulham due to a stubborn calf injury.

But after returning to full training last month, he was thrust straight into the starting line-up at left back for the crucial Premier League encounter against The Hornets.

The 30-year-old played the full 90-minutes as The Magpies were held to a 1-1 draw at St James’s Park. Newcastle have lacked defensive consistency at left-back in Dummett’s absence this season with Matt Ritchie not a natural defender and Jamal Lewis currently sidelined with a hamstring injury.

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Newcastle player Paul Dummett in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on January 15, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Missing out on Lucas Digne to Aston Villa meant Dummett’s return was a welcome one while the club remain in the market for further defensive reinforcements this month.

And on a largely disappointing afternoon for Newcastle, his display was one of a few positives to take from the match.

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While Dummett is still limited and predictable in an attacking sense, he remained defensively solid to cut out several Watford attacks over the course of the afternoon.

Dummett won three loose balls, five defensive duels, two aerial duels, made four interceptions and recovered possession on 11 occasions as part of a solid and dependable performance.

His one foul during the match on Emmanuel Dennis stopped Watford breaking away and resulted in a booking.

Watford's late equaliser came down his side but he was able to spot the danger after Miguel Almiron over-committed and almost cut-out Kiko Femenía cross.

Dummett is out of contract at Newcastle in the summer but Magpies head coach Eddie Howe insists the defender still has a big role to play.

“He’s come back into the group and trained very well,” Howe told The Gazette after the game. "I really like him, he’s got huge experience and is reliable. I think he’s got leadership qualities and he’s been in this position many times here.

“For all those reasons, I thought he was the right person to start. He played very well, showed his quality and will only get better from this point.”

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