A pathetic performance at St James’ Park, with a Callum Wilson penalty saving Bruce’s bacon on a dismal Saturday night that saw us look second best throughout – even with a man advantage!
Failing to beat a newly promoted side and relegation rival at home seems like a bad result – especially when they were down to 10 men for the final half hour – however it feels like we got away with one here by avoiding what would’ve been a disastrous defeat, it was THAT bad.
That said, we could’ve really done with all three ahead of upcoming games Man City, Liverpool and Leicester – not that we ever looked likely to win it in a pitifully passive performance from start to finish.
The result takes us to 12th, on 18 points for Christmas and eight clear of the drop zone as things stand.
Steve Bruce made FIVE changes from the side that lost 5-2 at Leeds. In came Yedlin, Dummett (!), Shelvey, Ritchie and Almiron, with Lewis, Murphy, Hayden, Hendrick and Fraser dropping to the bench:
We’ve yet to have over 50% possession in any of our previous 13 games so far this season, so it was no surprise so see the visitors enjoy most of the ball over opening 10 minutes.
That said, we were second best in the opening stages, not only allowing them 70% of the ball but a few very decent chances. Thankfully, efforts from Cairney and Lookman didn’t trouble Darlow, but our inability to stop the cross and poor marking in the middle was an early cause for concern as Fulham started confidently.
We had one or two half chance, but with that was an evident lack of quality in the final third, with any attempts to hurt a fragile Fulham defence quickly falling flat as Ritchie sliced wide, Wilson headed straight at Areola and then saw his attempt to slip in Joelinton intercepted before the Brazilian then headed over a decent ball in from Yedlin.
It was Fulham who then had the biggest chance of the match in the 26th minute mark. The explosive Anguissa cut through our midfield like a knife through butter and the ball fell to Decordova-Reid – who only had Darlow to beat but was quickly closed down by our stand-in stopper and star man between the sticks.
Half an hour in it was uninspiring to say the least. If it wasn’t the lack of possession it was the lack of pressing or the total lack of quality on the rare occasion we did get the ball into the final third. Not only that, we looked a soft touch at the back, with our midfield easily bypassed and wide areas failing to contain the likes of Lookman and Decordova-Reid. The latter really should’ve scored by this point, slicing wide after sneaking in behind a ball-watching Dummett.
Aside from a decent strike from Almiron that was well held by Areola, it was desperately bad and a painful watch…and we soon got what we sadly deserved.
A Fulham corner was floated in, Adarabioyo got up highest and his header ricocheted in off Ritchie’s face for a laughable own goal. A bad goal to concede, but you couldn’t say it hadn’t been coming…
Half time. 1-0 to Fulham and a frankly pathetic 45 minutes of football from a black and white perspective.
The teams returned ahead of the restart and there was no Fernandez, meaning Hayden was forced to fill in alongside Clark. Hardly ideal given our lack of fit centre-backs, although we were in safe hands based on Hayden’s MOTM display against the Baggies this time last week.
15 minutes into the second half, a surprise Sky Sports stat indicated we’d had 70% of the ball since the break. That was a step in the right direction, however we’d not converted that into any meaningful shot on goal, with Shelvey’s tame free kick sailing over and Joelinton failing to get an effort away after a good run got him through.
Thankfully, that quickly changed in a flash via a passage of play that turned this one-sided affair completely on its head.
Almiron slipped in Wilson, who not only beat his man for pace but was adjudged to have been hauled down in the box by Andersen. A penalty to Newcastle, but a double-boost soon after when Graham Scott showed the Danish centre-back a straight red after VAR instructed him to take a closer look via the pitch-side monitor.
Needless to say, Wilson then stepped up and rolled the ball straight down the middle and past Areola. 1-1 and a major twist in a game we looked destined to lose just a few minutes prior.
In all honesty, it looked to me like the contact came OUTSIDE the box, making the double punishment even tougher to take for Fulham. Mind you, it was a lucky break we needed and maybe deserved after VAR’s abysmal error at Elland Road!
With half an hour remaining and the visitors now down to 10-men, we’d never have a better chance to push for a massive three points over a potential relegation rival.
No surprises who Steve Bruce turned to next, with Joelinton making way for Dwight Gayle – the man who made all the difference the last time we were pushing for a late winner at 1-1!
Ryan Fraser then entered the fray as we approached the final 10 minutes, seeing Ritchie move to left-back as Dummett made way.
Frustratingly, we weren’t making full use of the extra man, struggling to keep Fulham on the back foot, string more than a few meaningful passes together or force Areola into any saves.
We had most of our big guns on, but we looked leggy and lacking in ideas as the fourth official signalled there’d be FIVE minutes of added time.
Nothing was forthcoming and it was instead us who ‘hung on’ for a point in stoppage time – which was one more than I was expecting until the penalty and subsequent red card changed everything!
A painful end to passive, dull and just painstakingly poor performance…yet again. I dread to think where we’d be without luck and Callum Wilson.
Next up, a trip to Manchester City on Boxing Day!