The big hope at Newcastle United after Jamaal Lascelles' late, late strike
Newcastle United desperately need victories, but Steve Bruce will have gladly taken this point.
Only victories will get the club out of relegation trouble, but this draw, coming like it did, will hearten Bruce and his players ahead of a hugely-important game against rivals Brighton and Hove Albion.
However, Jamaal Lascelles netted in the 94th minute to claim a point for his team from a 1-1 draw at St James’s Park.
Newcastle, lacking ideas in the final third of the pitch without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, had looked to be heading for a damaging defeat.
Lascelles’ goal has ensured the 16th-placed club has a two-point cushion above the relegation zone ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
The return of Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Almiron can’t come soon enough, and Newcastle fans can only hope that the club’s fate is still in its own hands by the time they return.
Bruce, favouring experience over youth, made just one change – Dwight Gayle came in for Jeff Hendrick – and kept faith with Emil Krafth. Javier Manquillo, back from an ankle problem, was again on the bench for United.
The system stayed the same, but the personnel were shuffled, and Ryan Fraser was fielded as a No.10 between split strikers Gayle and Joelinton.
Villa, like Newcastle, had won one and draw two of their previous five Premier League games ahead of the fixture.
The visitors had the better start, though that wasn’t saying much. Ezri Konsa slid in to block Joelinton after he got past Tyrone Mings after Jonjo Shelvey played the ball up to him on the right.
Martin Dubravka denied Trezeguet at the other end after Villa lost Bertrand Traore to injury after he went over the advertising hoardings following a challenge from Paul Dummett.
The question fans were asking before the game was where the goals were going to come from in the absence of Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Almiron.
And United, held to a goalless draw by West Bromwich Albion last Sunday, just didn’t look like scoring before the break. They were just too predictable, again, in the final third of the pitch.
The first 45 minutes underlined just how much Newcastle have missed the pace and movement of Wilson in the opposition half, not to mention his predatory instincts inside the box, since he limped off against Southampton last month.
Joelinton did some good work outside the box, but it was a different story inside the area.
The second half wasn’t a different story. Villa, without Jack Grealish again, looked the most likely team to score, and there was a let-off for Newcastle when Konsa headed wide.
Shelvey struggled to make an impression in midfield, and Gayle didn’t get a chance in the box.
Willock created a second-half opportunity for Joelinton, but the striker opted to cross rather than shoot. Bruce bellowed up the pitch from the dugout after Joelinton’s pass across the box was intercepted.
It was a big moment, and, yet again, Joelinton made the wrong decision.
Bruce made his first change in the 79th minute when he replaced Fraser with Jacob Murphy, which struck the crossbar soon after coming on.
Ollie Watkins’ netted with a deflected shot, but Lascelles claimed a point with a powerful header from a Murphy cross. Newcastle fight on.