Newcastle are now without a win in three games in all competitions following their 2-1 defeat on Friday evening against Nottingham Forest.
Rafa Benitez’s side were 1-0 up at the City Ground when Matt Ritchie gave them the lead just before half-time. The winger’s goal came against the run of play as Newcastle were down to 10 men at the time as Jonjo Shelvey was shown a red card for kicking out at Henri Lansbury. Nicklas Bendtner missed the resulting penalty for the home side allowing the Magpies to go in front.
Things got worse for the visitors in the second half when Paul Dummett was also sent off for a push on Lansbury. Newcastle were fortunate that Forest missed from the spot once again to leave them leading with a slender advantage.
The numerical advantage did eventually pay off for the hosts though as Bendtner made up for his missed penalty to put Forest back on level terms on 52 minutes, while a Jamaal Lascelles goal four minutes from time ensured all three points went the way of the Nottingham side.
Back-to-back defeats in the Championship means Newcastle’s lead at the top of the table has been cut to just one point where Brighton lead the chase in second place. The Magpies remain six points clear of third place though, and are available at 1/12 to be promoted back into the Premier League at the first attempt since their relegation last season.
Newcastle fans will be hoping they can join north East clubs Middlesbrough and Sunderland in the top flight next season, although the latter are odds-on at 4/5 in the Premier League betting on Paddy Power for relegation.
Benitez now faces his first mini-crisis this season as he will need to lift his players following their poor run of form. He will, however, be without the services of his most creative midfielder, Shelvey, for three games – which is a blow for the Spaniard.
Newcastle host 5th place Birmingham in their next game at St James’ Park. The Blues were beaten 3-0 at home by Barnsley last weekend so will be bidding to bounce back from a disappointing result themselves.
The Magpies then have away trips to Wigan and Burton, two sides struggling at the wrong end of the Championship table. Benitez and Newcastle will be very disappointed if their side does not come away from those two fixtures with maximum points.
On Boxing Day, Sheffield Wednesday, who currently sit inside the play-offs, travel to St James’ Park. The Yorkshire club are in good form as they have had consecutive wins over Wolves and Preston recently.
Newcastle will end 2016 with the chance to avenge their defeat to Nottingham Forest when the Championship leaders play host to Philippe Montanier’s side. Benitez will likely have the funds to strengthen his squad in January. However, he must stop the rot as soon as possible this month in order to keep his side on course for the Championship title at the end of the campaign.