Newcastle manager Steve Bruce was under immense pressure heading into the Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
But if tensions were simmering before a ball had even been kicked, they had fully boiled over by the time both sides strode off at Villa Park for half-time.
Goals from Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore put Villa 2-0 up and in cruise control heading into the break, with the Magpies offering little to no threat going forward. Yes, they put a season-high 13 crosses into the box for Andy Carroll to attempt to win, but the rest of the opening 45 minutes was frankly as pedestrian as it comes – with Newcastle’s defending borderline woeful at times.
In the firing line first for a lack of defensive effort was Jonjo Shelvey, whose lackadaisical attempt to close down Matt Targett resulted in the former Southampton full-back teeing up – with the aide of a Fabian Schar deflection – Watkins for the opener.
Needless to say his efforts went down well with the boisterous Geordie faithful on Twitter…
Working out what Newcastle’s tactics really are takes a bit of doing, as they seem to have absolutely nothing to do with exploiting the pace of Callum Wilson. You know, the man they forked out £20m to buy from Bournemouth last summer.
Whatever the case may be, what’s going on in attack is the least of Newcastle’s worries when they can’t get the basics right defensively.
After Karl Darlow fisted away an inswinging corner Jack Grealish corner, Villa were inexplicably allowed to recycle the ball out wide – eventually leading to the home side’s ace in the hole teeing up Traore for a sumptuous second.
About those tactics…
So all in all, not a pretty picture for Newcastle. Want to know what the rest of the reaction was when half time struck?
Of course you do!
Strap in Newcastle fans, it’s going to be long a second half to the season. Cue the inevitable calls for this newly available man to make his return to sunny St James’…