Well wasn’t that just an absolute waste of everyone’s time. The two worst footballing teams in the league playing out a drab goalless draw, in a result that wasn’t much use to either team.
We’re one point closer to that 40-point mark, but to say we’re limping towards the line is an understatement.
It was one of those games where you thought it actually couldn’t be so predictably bad, surely something had to give. Nope.
Steve Bruce gave us all a huge surprise by leaving out Saint Maximin as he reverted to a back 4 and tried to get us more on the front foot. Manquillo came in at right back, and in attack Joelinton and Matt Ritchie started either side of Almiron in the trio behind Dwight Gayle. Shelvey and Hayden came into the middle in place of Bentaleb and Longstaff who to be fair, have been woeful the past two games.
We started the more aggressive team, trying to force the issue and Joelinton and Shelvey looked lively. Jonjo played one early through ball to Gayle that was pure footballing filth but our number 12 (doesn’t have the same ring to it does it) couldn’t make his first touch firm enough to take it on, despite Pope slipping as he came out to shut him down.
We looked up for it initially, and despite Hayden doing his best to give the ball back to Burnley every chance he had, we found ourselves in the uncharted territory of having more possession than our opponents.
The visitors always looked dangerous though, (but that was definitely more to do with my nerves than any quality), particularly through Westwood’s set pieces. We finished the first half on the front foot however, with Matt Ritchie driving narrowly wide from just inside the box, and Gayle shooting straight at Pope after a promising counter attack which started with a wonderful turn and run from Almiron.
All in all, as expected it was 0-0 at half time, a thoroughly mundane watch, and well on course to being last on MOTD as many great thinkers had predicted. It was however definitely better than recent performances as we actually attempted to attack.
The second half began with the urgency the second half finished on, the front 4 of Gayle, Joelinton, Ritchie and Almiron definitely offer more when it comes to pressing teams high up from what we’ve seen recently, but there was a distinct lack of quality and end product. Everything good came through Shelvey’s desire to get on the ball and make things happen.
Almiron buzzed around but chose the wrong option on so many occasions and despite a promising start Joelinton faded badly.
The biggest cheer came on 77 minutes when ASM replaced Joelinton, and the Frenchman livened things up instantly, but it ultimately amounted to nothing. Ritchie hit an outstanding long range effort that seemingly curled wide at the last minute, and then him and Shelvey managed to mess up a 2 on 2 situation during stoppage time when it was seemingly easier to score.
Other than that, Bruce’s bold move to try and play with a back 4 with a team that supposedly can’t (despite history telling us otherwise) ended in an absolute turgid stalemate.
We finished 10th with a back four of players who are all currently still in our squad, and that ironically equals Bruce’s best ever Premier League finish in 20 odd years of management, but don’t forget these players aren’t good enough to implement HIS plan………anyway that kind of cynicism of our commander and chief’s ability is probably best left for another article.
Make no mistake, Newcastle v Burnley is now the Premier League equivalent of Bolton v Stoke circa Allardyce and Pulis era, and that is probably being unkind to Burnley.
We ended the game as we began, 7 points clear of relegation despite a win for West Ham and a point for Bournemouth, and at the time of writing Watford are yet to play Liverpool.
An anxious 10 games await us. Anxious because we simply don’t score goals.