Newcastle United fans fear they've had a worrying glimpse into the future
This had the look of a Championship fixture – and a poor one at that.
And, if Newcastle United don’t quickly improve, this WILL be a second-tier fixture next season.
Steve Bruce’s side never looked like winning what was billed as a must-win game for the club, which climbed one place to 16th in the Premier League after a goalless draw against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
The performance will do nothing to ease the pressure on Bruce, who had insisted that he would not walk away from the job ahead of the game after a fractious week behind the scenes at the club.
Bruce, without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, will inevitably face more criticism from fans after this hard-to-watch game.
Chances were few and far between for United, and Joelinton opted not to try his luck with the best opportunity that came his way.
The game came in the wake of a training ground row with Matt Ritchie – and another extraordinary press conference from Bruce.
United’s head coach, surprisingly, left former West Brom-loanee Dwight Gayle on the bench, and recalled Ryan Fraser, Jeff Hendrick and Paul Dummett to his starting XI. Matty Longstaff, again, was left out of the squad.
Joelinton kept his place, and the striker had the club’s first chance. Joe Willock, playing as a No.10, set him away down the right, but Joelinton, having got ahead of his marker, opted to pass rather than shoot. Bruce screamed in frustration on the touchline as Joelinton’s pass to Fraser was cut out.
Without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron due to injuries, Bruce needed Joelinton to shoot on sight, but the No.9, as Newcastle fans have found out since his £40million arrival, is not that type of player.
Gayle would have had one thing on his mind had that chance fallen to him.
United huffed and puffed, but they found West Brom hard to break down. Also, the home side had chances of their own, and Mbaye Diagne shot over as the half-hour mark approached.
All to often Newcastle launched aimless balls upfield, and West Brom – who had played om Thursday night – easily dealt with them.
Bruce didn’t make a change at the break, and there was more of the same. Shelvey played another long pass forward which didn’t reach its intended target, and Matt Phillips put a good chance over Martin Dubravka’s goal.
Gayle – who had almost fired West Brom to promotion the season before last – was sent on in the 57th minute as the home side pushed for a breakthrough. Gayle took up the No.10 role, and he quickly set up a chance for Willock, whose shot was palmed away by Sam Johnstone.
West Brom looked the more likely to score in the final 20 minutes, despite having played three days earlier.
Newcastle claimed what could prove to be an important point, but this really was an opportunity to put some clear daylight between themselves and the Premier League’s bottom three.
United, as ever, are doing it the hard way.