Stunning goals from Jacob Murphy and Allan Saint-Maximin move Newcastle SIX points clear of third bottom Fulham with a MASSIVE comeback win over Burnley – despite VAR denying us a stone wall penalty in the first half.
One thing we demanded from this game was avoiding the sort of flat, half-hearted and ultimately negative approach that saw us fail to beat West Brom and get hammered at Brighton.
History threatened to repeat itself after a dismal first half included some atrocious defending, an avoidable Burnley goal and far too much wayward passing, however it was a stunning Jacob Murphy strike and sone Allan Saint-Maximin brilliance that saved Bruce’s bacon.
It was backs against the wall late on and an unbearable watch over the final 20 minutes, but we stood strong and hung on for a monumental win, with Dubravka a key figure in dealing with crosses into the box and Sean Longstaff’s tenacity vital in the closing stages.
With Wilson and Saint-Maximin declared fit, Bruce had a big decision to make. Would he bring both back in search of the big win we so desperately needed, or would he stay loyal to the side that caused Spurs all sorts of problems in last week’s much improved display?
He went for the latter, with the only changes being Fernandez and Clark in for the injured Lascelles and poor Emil Krafth, meaning Wilson and Saint-Maximin started on the bench:
Although I was eager to see both Wilson and ASM start – two players who caused the Clarets real trouble in our 3-1 win in the reverse fixtures – we could have no real complaints if the side played with the sort of hunger, intensity and attacking intent we saw last Sunday.
Elsewhere, recent England No.1 Nick Pope was missing for the home side, giving us another reason to get at this tough yet beatable Burnley side.
The game kicked off at a sunny Turf Moor and it was immediately clear that we’d have to defend a host of long balls and crossed into the box, with Dyche keen for his side to get it wide and swing crossed into the box. As for us, we started the game half asleep, sitting too deep, surrendering possession too easily and committing a few too many cheap fouls that gave Burnley ideal opportunity to put pressure on our goal.
15 minutes in it felt far too similar to that flat and lifeless 0-0 draw at West Brom, with us showing a real lack of quality and seeming second best in most areas of the pitch – despite the opposition’s clear limitations.
Frustratingly, that theme continued and Burnley opened the scoring after a Chris Wood cross – after beating Clark and Fernandez all too easily – was tapped in by an unmarked Vydra. Awful defending that topped off a truly turgid start to the game. Where on earth was the momentum from last week?
Half an hour in and there was no reaction to their opener. We were sat too deep, were constantly giving the ball away and opting to play hoofball against the one side in the Premier League who enjoy exactly that! There was zero fluidity to our play, a total lack of cohesion from front to back and the look of a side who’d never played together – not put in one of our performances of the season against Spurs seven days ago!
Murphy was struggling badly, committing too many fouls and struggling on the ball, but he was one of many who just hadn’t showed up as we approached half time with just ONE shot to our name.
That changed for a brief moment when Gayle had the ball in the net, only to be standing a few inches offside from Joelinton’s hook towards goal, however we were then denied a blatant penalty just five minutes before the break.
After a brilliant Peacock-Farrell save denied Gayle’s goal bound effort, Sean Longstaff latched onto the lose ball and was kicked in the head as Tarkowski’s high boot cleared. Anywhere else on the pitch it was a foul, but VAR somehow decided there was nothing doing.
An absolute farce.
After some more sloppy defending saw us concede a cheap free kick and corner, Dubravka pulled off a superb save to stop Dummett slicing the ball into his own net. We just about survived a late surge from Burnley to keep it at 1-0 and should have been given a stone wall penalty, but it was a shocking first half display that stunk of previous failings at West Brom, Brighton and Sheffield United.
Changes were needed, with Bruce’s decision to go without Wilson and Saint-Maximin in serious danger of backfiring.
The players came back out for the second half and there was no sign of those changes. A frustrating call from Bruce given the 11 on the field had shown nothing so far in such a huge game before our fixtures turn ugly.
The second 45 started how the first ended, with us gifting Burnley an early corner that resulted in intense pressure on Dubravka and a brilliant effort from Lowton that the Slovakian tipped over.
Our centre-backs were being bullied by Wood, our wing-backs were ineffective, our midfield outworked and our forwards outnumbered and Bruce finally saw sense to bring on Wilson and Saint-Maximin with 56 minutes on the clock.
Two minutes later and they had an instant impact! Saint-Maximin twisted and turned down the right and cut the ball back for Murphy. He had a lot to do, but fired a curled right foot finish past Peacock-Farrell and into the far corner. He’d had a shocker up until now, however he more than made up for it with a stunning strike. 1-1!
Burnley continued to get the ball wide, throw bodies into the box and whip crosses in, but we stood strong and countered in devastating style.
Shelvey released Saint-Maximin on the half-way line and the Frenchman drove at an exposed Burnley defence. Wilson was an option to his right, but he cut in – sending both Tarkowski and Mee the wrong way – and fired a left-footed strike into the bottom corner!
2-1 Newcastle and the game had been turned on its head just 10 minutes on from the arrival of our unplayable attacking duo. Wilson played a part in both – he held the ball up well for the opener and made a good run for the second – but Saint-Maxmin’s devastating dribbling and flare was the difference.
It’s fair to say we were now entering the biggest 20 minutes of our season. Survive it and we’d move SIX clear of Fulham with one game in hand – a HUGE incentive ahead of the tough run of fixtures we had to follow.
We carried a clear threat on the counter thanks Wilson’s physicality and ASM’s pace – giving something for Burnley to think about when they flung bodies forward – however that didn’t stop the home side shifting the ball wide and throwing balls into the box.
Thankfully, Dubravka was first to several of those and our centre-back trio stood strong after an awful first half display, but it was not done yet as we entered extra time. It could well have been had Almiron’s effort not been blocked on the line after more brilliant work from ASM, mind!
Four minutes of added time and this was it – our chance to take one monumental step towards safety – and we did it.
A huge victory that ends our streak without a win and sends us into next week’s clash with West Ham on a real high.
Howay the lads!