Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 0 Stoke City 0

Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles (right) watches Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland save his header.
Newcastle United's Jamaal Lascelles (right) watches Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland save his header.

Newcastle United didn’t do much wrong against Stoke City.

They hadn’t done much wrong for 45 minutes against Sunderland six days earlier.

Yet Steve McClaren’s side didn’t find the net in either game.

And that’s the worry.

On Saturday Aleksandar Mitrovic hit the post, while Moussa Sissoko and Jamaal Lascelles, among others, tested Jack Butland, who is getting closer and closer to England No 1 Joe Hart.

McClaren talked about luck evening itself out over the course of the season after the game.

“I’m not superstitious, but you have these spells in football and it’s frustrating when you think you should win, but over 38 games it evens itself out,” he said.

“Some games we will play worse than that and win.”

McClaren is right. United will play a lot worse than they did against Stoke and win.

But more than a quarter of the campaign has already gone.

And Newcastle need to starting making their own luck in the final third of the pitch – sooner rather than later.

There’s still time, unquestionably.

United are just a point adrift of 17th-placed Bournemouth, Saturday’s opposition.

Georginio Wijnaldum – who ran himself into the ground against Stoke – was a little more candid than McClaren.

There were times, Wijnaldum said, that Newcastle “should have done better” in front of goal.

Sissoko will be frustrated that he didn’t beat Butland with the first of his two second-half chances, and United didn’t get the ball to Wijnaldum enough in and around the box.

McClaren will also be looking back at his decisions, notably the introduction of Siem de Jong.

Would Papiss Cisse or Florian Thauvin been a better choice? Maybe the latter, as legs – and pace – could have hurt Stoke as the 120 minutes of cup football they had played four days earlier started to catch up with them.

But, really, there wasn’t much wrong with Newcastle’s performance.

The defence kept only its second clean sheet of the season, and Cheick Tiote had his best game yet this season.

Tiote was disciplined with and without the ball, and he didn’t come close to being shown a yellow card.

Further upfield, Ayoze Perez was the pick for Newcastle.

The 21-year-old forward played with an intelligence which belied his age.

Perez instinctively knows when to pass, when to run and when to drop off. Just as importantly, he backs up his guile with graft. He didn’t stop running.

And there’s much promise in the developing understanding between Perez, Wijnaldum, Sissoko and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Mitrovic led the line well, and in him the club have a player capable of holding the ball up and laying it off to the likes of Perez and Wijnaldum.

But the 6-2 rout of Norwich City aside, the team just hasn’t scored enough goals.

Half of the team’s goals haul so far this season came in that one, memorable game.

If United keep creating chances, the goals should come, but they can’t come quick enough for McClaren, who has now lost a third senior goalkeeper, Rob Elliot, to injury.

Elliot joins Tim Krul and Karl Darlow on the sidelines.

And unless Newcastle can get special dispensation to bring in an emergency loanee, 18-year-old Freddie Woodman will be in goal against Bournemouth at the Goldsands Stadium.

Woodman has the potential to be as good as 22-year-old Butland, who, like him, came up through the ranks with England.

Butland, however, has played well over 100 league games.

But is Woodman – who played a dozen games on loan for League Two club Crawley Town before being recalled last month in the wake of Krul’s season-ending injury – ready for Premier League football?

It’s a question McClaren must answer ahead of the Bournemouth game.

But in reality, only Woodman, as good as any young English goalkeeper, can answer that question on the field.

Woodman has the confidence. He wouldn’t be daunted by the prospect of playing top-flight football so early in his career.

Certainly, the experience he gained on loan at Crawley could prove invaluable, though the club will attempt to bring in another goalkeeper, with Darlow is weeks away from a return from an ankle problem.

It’s another headache for McClaren, whose injury list runs into double figures.

Bournemouth, beaten by Southampton yesterday, have their own injury problems.

And Newcastle must capitalise and climb out of the relegation zone.

To do that, the team must starting taking the chances that come its way.

And that, up to now, has proved easier said than done.