A much improved display and a result we well and truly deserved, with Joe Willock’s 85th minute goal earning us a 2-2 draw against Tottenham at St James’ Park.
Joelinton’s first half strike gave us an initial lead, but two Harry Kane goals before the break left us chasing a game we were the better side in for large parts.
However, we didn’t give up, showed the sort of fight and spirit we had none of at Brighton and were rewarded for that with five minutes on the clock as Willock smashed home via the crossbar.
The result leaves us three points above Fulham ahead of their 4.30pm kick off at Aston Villa. Their superior goal difference means they’ll leapfrog us in the table should they pull off a surprise win – although an away victory is entirely possible now Jack Grealish has missed out at the 11th hour.
Nevertheless, this was at least a performance to give us a glimmer of hope. It makes you wonder just why we failed to turn up at Brighton a fortnight ago and was a game we actually could have won if it wasn’t for bad defending and a few missed chances, but it’s a big point and much more like it.
With our 17 shots inside the area being our highest in a Premier League game under Steve Bruce, there was sign of improvement – despite the initial reaction to our starting 11 being one of frustration and bemusement!
Out went Clark, Manquillo, Willock, Hayden (injured) and Fraser and in came Krafth, Ritchie, Murphy, Sean Longstaff and Gayle, as Saint-Maximin’s was forced to settle for a place on the bench after recovering from a groin injury.
Bruce also moved back to a five-man defence and made some surprise calls in doing so, with Krafth playing as a centre-back and Shelvey keeping his place ahead of Willock in a midfield that lacked mobility. That being said, some of the changes a treat and it was a performance that left most pleasantly surprised, with Ritchie, Murphy and Sean Longstaff all justifying their inclusions with strong displays.
Carroll picked up a ‘niggle’ to rule him out of the squad and Wilson’s absence was anticipated, however it was odd to see both Fraser and Fernandez left out –
The first half was a frustrating affair to put it mildly.
We started OK and were visibly encouraged by the fact Spurs’ defence looked so shaky, with them there to be got at down the flanks and leaving huge gaps between centre-back and midfield. Joelinton’s movement was stretching them, Gayle was a pest and Muprhy was having real joy whenever he got at Reguillon.
He then produced the first big moment of the match, whipping in a brilliant ball for Gayle. The striker’s header was well saved by Lloris, however his follow up attempt was smothered by the Frenchman. He had to score – but it wasn’t long until we were in front.
After Ritchie’s pressing charged down a Sanchez clearance, Longstaff latched onto the ball in the box. I initially expected him to shoot, but he got his head up and played a brilliant first time pass into Joelinton. The Brazilian let the ball come across his body and buried it into the bottom corner. 1-0 Newcastle and it was well deserved!
It was highlighted before the game that we’d only been ahead for 360 minutes this season, and we only extended that to 361 here as Spurs equalised in horrible fashion just 26 seconds after the restart as Krafth’s awful attempt at a clearance bounce off Kane and allowed the England striker to tap in.
1-1 and an abysmal goal to concede, leaving NUFC fans sat on their sofa with head in hands.
Sadly, it got worst just four minutes later. Kane was slipped in down the right hand side and a right-footed shot flew into the far corner past Dubravka. Gutting.
Yes it was a million miles better than the absolute collapse at Brighton, however it felt pretty damning that we took the lead and played ok, yet went into the break 1-2 down.
That said, Spurs were clearly there to be got at and there was no reason why we couldn’t get a result if they continued to look a soft touch at the back.
The second half kicked off and South Korean star Son came on for the visitors. We started on the front foot, however, with Almiron having a curling effort tipped wide by Lloris.
The Paraguayan was then involved at the other end midway through the final 45. A Spurs corner was met powerfully be Sanchez and looked destined to make it 1-3, only for Almiron to head off the line to keep us in it. A fortunate escape but the lifeline our lively display deserved.
A matter of minutes later, a huge chance to draw level was spurned by Joelinton. Krafth’s cross was a good one and our £40m man took the ball down well, but his side foot effort flashed wide.
Allan Saint-Maximin entered the field seconds later, but It felt like that was our moment to get back into the game gone.
Moments after Harry Kane away free on the counter and slid a shot off the near post and out, we broke down the other end and got exactly what we deserved. Ritchie hung a ball up to the far post, Joelinton did brilliantly to nod it back across goal, Almiron’s effort was partially blocked and Willock arrived to smash the ball off the underside of the crossbar and in!
The 5-3-2 formation worked surprisingly well. Murphy was a menace all game from right wing-back, with his pace, directness and tempting deliveries causing problems. Ritchie also gave us an outlet down the left and picked out several good balls down the line, benefiting from some lively movement from Joelinton and Gayle. Sean Longstaff also added a bit of bite to the midfield. Some tired passes threatened to let him down, however it was a display that proves exactly why he should always start over a Hendrick.
Credit must also go to Joelinton for one of his best all round displays in a black and white shirt. A goal, a key role in the equaliser, some clever link up play, several good runs into the channels and signs that he’s learning how to use his body to get between man and ball meant he was a constant thorn in Spurs’ side.
A big point and much improved performance – although we may be left wishing we picked up all three should Fulham beat an Aston Villa side still without Jack Grealish.
Next up, a relegation six-pointer at Burnley next Sunday.