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Newcastle United 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 0: Rafa Benitez's side end year with disappointing draw

Dwight Gayle, right
Dwight Gayle, right

Newcastle United ended the year with a scrappy goalless draw against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Neither team did enough to deserve all three points and the final whistle was greeted by scattered boos around St James's Park.

Rafa Benitez and Matt Ritchie

Rafa Benitez and Matt Ritchie

The result saw Rafa Benitez's drop down to 16th place in the Premier League table.

Newcastle – who have taken five points from their last 12 games – face struggling Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on New Year's Day.

Manager Benitez made seven changes for the game and recalled Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden, Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle.

Only the recall for Darlow, in for the injured Rob Elliot, was enforced.

After an evenly-contested first 15 minutes, Brighton slowly got the upper hand.

Brighton, strong on set-pieces, had a succession of first-half corners, and fans started to air their frustrations at the half-hour mark.

Joselu shot wide in the 40th minute, and Shane Duffy sent a looping header wide from a corner before the break.

Benitez sent out an unchanged side for the second half, and Brighton's Matt Ryan soon had his first save to make. The goalkeeper turned a deflected shot from Hayden round his post, and Jamaal Lascelles headed wide from the resulting corner.

Gayle forced a good one-handed save from Ryan with a 59th-minute header after Atsu crossed from the left.

Newcastle plodded while Brighton probed, and Benitez sent on Ayoze Perez and Jonjo Shelvey as the club's fans attempted to rally their team for the last 15 minutes.

Jacob Murphy followed them on to the pitch. United pressed their visitors hard in the last 10 minutes, but they couldn't find a winner.

And Benitez's side know they must now pick up at least a point from Stoke, heavily beaten by Chelsea this afternoon.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie (Perez, 72), Hayden, Merino (Shelvey, 76), Atsu (Murphy, 84); Gayle, Joselu. Subs not used: Woodman, Manquillo, Mbemba, Diame.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION: Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross; Murray (Hemed, 62). Subs not used: Krul, Kayal, Baldock, Goldson, Izquierdo, Schelotto.

Bookings: Yedlin 61, Knockaert 73, Merino 74

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)

Attendance: 52,209