Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 1

Jack Colback
Jack Colback

This was typical Newcastle United in a very untypical Premier League season.

Steve McClaren’s side had done the hard part.

Back-to-back victories against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool had seemingly set them up for a fall against Aston Villa, the worst team in the division.

And so it happened. Typical Newcastle.

But the season so far has proved anything but typical.

A glance at the league table, topped by Leicester City, underlines this fact.

Siem de Jong

Siem de Jong

Earlier in the day, unfancied Bournemouth and Norwich City had beaten West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United respectively.

And Leicester, yet again, had won to ensure they will top the table at Christmas, a feat United haven’t achieved for 14 years.

In his programme notes, captain Fabricio Coloccini had struck a cautious note.

“I believe it will be one of the hardest games we will play,” wrote Coloccini.

The club’s captain also labelled Villa “dangerous” given their position.

Villa, however, had been anything but dangerous in their previous 16 games, from which they had amassed just six points.

And Newcastle were seemingly sent on their way to a third successive victory by Coloccini, who lost his marker and met a corner from Siem de Jong with a first-time shot which beat Brad Guzan in the visiting goal.

United deserved their lead on a sodden turf.

They were first to everything before the break as the rain came down.

They tackled harder, ran faster and thought quicker than Villa, whose manager, one-time Newcastle target Remi Garde, became increasingly agitated as the half wore on.

The pitch, meanwhile, became increasingly less playable, but referee Martin Atkinson was happy for the it continue at the interval.

United, however, weren’t able to continue in the same vein in the second half, though de Jong should have put the game beyond Villa as the hour-mark approached.

The forward somehow headed a Georginio Wijnaldum ball wide of Guzan’s goal.

Minutes later, Jordan Ayew levelled with a stunning right-footed strike from the edge of the area.

Villa, like Newcastle in the first half, had earned their breakthrough.

The withdrawl of the anonymous Scott Sinclair – he was replaced by striker Rudy Gestede – had helped.

They had coped better with the conditions after the interval, and United had goalkeeper Rob Elliot – who stopped a shot from Gestede stopped a shot from Rudy Gestede – to thank again.

McClaren – who had lost Papiss Cisse to injury before the break – threw on Ayoze Perez and Florian Thauvin in the second half.

Perez was his usual industrious self, while Thauvin also busied himself in the final third of the pitch.

The conditions didn’t help McClaren’s side, but they had chances themselves – Perez should have done better with a late effort – but the draw was probably just about right.

It wasn’t a disaster for United, but it wasn’t a good point either.

And it increasingly looks like Newcastle will, at the very least, be spending some time near the foot of the division. There won’t be any quick fixes.

Villa, given their paltry haul of points, already look doomed.

Second-from-bottom Sunderland, presumably, are also deep in trouble, but United don’t look much better, and certainly no more consistent, than the other teams near the bottom of the table.

At the start of the season, Leicester were among the favourites to go down.

As it is, they are going from strength to strength at the top of the table, while Watford are in touching distance of a European place.

Those two clubs have made incredible progress since their summer managerial changes.

Newcastle, by contrast, have taken a point a game up to now, and that is borderline relegation form.

United must quicken their pace over the coming weeks and months.

And McClaren must decide before Boxing Day whether he needs to quicken the pace of his forward line, having left Perez out of his last three starting XIs.

De Jong, preferred to Perez despite McClaren’s keenness on a pressing game, doesn’t cover as much of the pitch.

And de Jong, a lovely footballer given time and space, has found chances hard to come by in the last three games.

Perez, however, is a player who can make things happen.

And if Newcastle are to be anything other than typical, they need to make things happen more often.