Newcastle and Stoke were forced to share the spoils in an entertaining 0-0 encounter at St James’ Park this afternoon. But it could and maybe should have been a different story.
Mark Hughes and the Stoke City supporters can thank one man for ensuring that the return home with a point this evening as Jack Butland put on a masterclass to enhance his growing reputation and pulled off a string of fine saves to deny Steve McClaren’s men the win they both required and deserved.
There should also be meaningful mentions for the post who denied an Aleksandar Mitrovic header and for Eric Pieters who was in the right place to block another Mitrovic effort from point blank range on the line – both of whom when combined with an inspirational Butland ensured a share of the spoils.
At the other end – the troublesome end – our defence was rarely tested and the one time our goalkeeper was required Rob Elliot popped up to scramble a Jonathan Walters effort away from goal. Otherwise, aside from the odd Stoke foray forward it was a largely uneventful day for our creaky defensive unit.
After the derby defeat last week it would have been easy to let the heads drop but to be fair to the Newcastle players that didn’t materialise as both sides made a flying start from the kick-off. But it was United who had the first glimpse of goal through Mitrovic who had a couple of early attempts before Ayoze Perez curled a shot a yard or so wide of the post
Stoke had half-hearted appeals for a penalty waved away by Roger East after Paul Dummett appeared to have fouled Bojan with TV replays showing that Newcastle this time had the beneift of a correct decision from a referee before Jonathan Walters found himself inches away from putting Stoke into the lead by just missing connecting with a Charlie Adam cross. Aleksander Mitrovic then struck the far post of the Gallowgate goal with a glancing header from a Moussa Sissoko cross which was just about the last meaningful note to report from an entertaining yet tense first half.
The second half started with United on the front foot and creating a number of opportunities. First Perez fired wide before Jack Butland tipped a free kick from Wijnaldum over the bar. Perez had another crack which was turned round the post by the impressive Stoke ‘keeper before Chancel Mbemba headed wide from the resulting corner.
Then it was Stoke’s turn to attack as Jonathan Walters found space in the penalty area and forced a reaction save from Rob Elliot before things threatened to turn ugly as Aleksandar Mitrovic threatened to lose his cool following altercations with Ryan Shawcross and then Philipp Wollscheid – with the pair booked following their handbags.
The game the turned a bit scrappy as Stoke settled for the point and while United tried to unlock the defence they found Stoke’s last line in fine form again as Butland foiled both Moussa Sissoko and Jamal Lascelles.
A sour point was the removal of Daryl Janmaat who, following a heavy challenge from Marko Arnautovic, had to hobble off through injury. The Swiss international failed to collect a yellow card for that challenge but moments later did find himself in the ref’s notebook after another cruncher on Siem de Jong. In the end he was perhaps lucky to remain on the field of play after inflicting another hefty challenge, this time on Chancel Mbemba which escaped a booking before he was swiftly (I use that term loosely based on the amount of time it took him to leave the pitch) withdrawn by Mark Hughes.
It also subsequently appears that Rob Elliot has suffered a recurrence of the injury that had kept him out for the last half of last season so is now doubtful for the trip to Bournemouth next weekend leaving us with only Freddie Woodman as a fit senior (sort of) goalkeeper. United could enter the emergency loan market as now three goalkeepers are out but whether they do or not remains to be seen.
One thing is certain though is that next week is a game we cannot afford to lose, but I’m confident in our approach and the results will come. Threatening the goal has been an issue but the last two games have seen us have 36 attempts on goal so sooner or later they’ll start going in the back of the net.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Rob Elliot, Daryl Janmaat, Chancel Mbemba, Fabricio Coloccini, Paul Dummett, Moussa Sissoko, Vurnon Anita, Cheik Tiote, Gerginio Wijnaldum, Ayoze Perez, Aleksandar Mitrovic
Subs: Freddie Woodman, Jamal Lascelles, Massadio Haidara, Yoan Gouffran, Florian Thauvin, Siem de Jong, Papiss Cisse
Stoke: Jack Butland, Glen Johnson, Ryan Shawcross, Philipp Wollscheid, Eric Pieters, Xherdan Shaqiri, Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam, Amrko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic, Jonathan Walters
Subs: Jakob Haugaard, Stephen Ireland, Marc Wilson, Ibrahim Afellay, Marco Van Ginkel, Mame Biram Diouf, Peter Crouch