A frustrating end to what was a pretty flat performance from a Newcastle perspective, with an 83rd minute header from Ahmed Elmohamady cancelling out a second half strike from Dwight Gayle.
Bruce named an unchanged side from Sunday’s win over Sheffield United, something that divided opinion on Tyneside given we have our biggest game of the season on Sunday – an FA Cup quarter final against Man City.
It made sense in some respects to keep the momentum going and improve our match fitness, but we tired pretty early in this one and were punished in the end.
Villa started pretty positively and were the better side in the opening 10 minutes, with them going close through Trezeguet – who bobbled an unmarked strike at the back post over the bar after getting away from Manquillo.
That was our warning sign, with us switching off at the back and looking slow, slack and half asleep early on, however another big arrived for the visitors 15 minutes in. This time it was Samatta who headed a big chance wide after getting in between our centre-halves. Lascelles did just about enough to put him off, but a Villa goal was coming if we didn’t wake up.
Villa’s chances dried up, aside from a McGinn header at the front post, but it was an extremely flat first half from ourselves – until we burst into life over the final 10 minutes of the half.
First we came close via Joelinton, who skipped past Mings with a clever step over and quick burst, but the England centre-back recovered brilliantly to block his goal-bound effort.
Saint-Maximin then burst through the middle moments later and had a shot well blocked from the edge of the box, but we went into the break at 0-0.
A decent end to a flat first half, but it was a very poor 45 minutes from our perspective.
The second half started in similar fashion, only this time Villa weren’t creating.
Saint-Maximin gave us a few moments of magic (see above!) and Joelinton looked more confident, going on one impressive driiving run down the left, but we looked tired and lacking in energy or ideas.
Soon after the hour mark, Bruce made a few much needed changes, taking off Ritchie (who looked to have picked up a knock) and Joelinton for Gayle and Carroll – and the oncoming duo combined immediately to give us a 1-0 lead.
It was a brilliant bit of vision and ball inside from Carroll, and Gayle finished well, getting the ball onto his favoured foot and slotting past Nyland. 1-0 and an unlikely lead based on our first-half performance.
Our lack of energy was still evident, however. It looked at one stage like we could limp over the line and secure another big three points at St James’ Park, but a rare mistake from Martin Dubravka gave Villa a route back into it, with him diving over an Elmohamady header.
A rare mistake from our player of the season, but it was poor defending from all involved and a Villa goal that had been coming all evening, if we’re being honest.
We then lost Isaac Hayden to a suspected injury and couldn’t get out of our own half late on, with Villa making several changes and ending the game strongly.
A disappointing performance, but we’ve done well to get 4 points in as many days and can possibly count ourselves lucky we got a draw here.
A promising cameo from Andy Carroll, another impressive display from Saint-Maximin and one more point on the board.
Next up, Man City on Sunday in the quarter final of the FA Cup!