Relegation looms for West Brom after Newcastle stalemate
Baggies look doomed after two sides play out an uninspiring draw at The Hawthorns
Dara O’Shea challenges with Joelinton during West Bromwich Albion’s goalless draw with Newcastle. Photograph: Nick potts/PA
West Bromwich Albion 0 Newcastle United 0
At the end of a bruising week for Steve Bruce, it was imperative Newcastle found a way to stem the bleeding. For Bruce, who spent the last few days attempting to extinguish the flames from a leaked training-ground spat with Matt Ritchie, avoiding defeat may have been adequate but a goalless draw extended a sorry run to two wins from their past 18 matches in all competitions. For West Brom, who remain ensconced in the bottom three and eight points adrift of the last safe spot, this represented an opportunity missed.
Bruce made three changes from last weekend’s draw at home to Wolves, with Ryan Fraser and Jeff Hendrick replacing the injured Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almirón, while Paul Dummett was preferred to Jamal Lewis at left-back, the manager citing his experience a valuable commodity in a game of this magnitude. Martin Dubravka continued in goal and Joelinton led the line although often peeled wide to allow Joe Willock to roam into space centrally.
With three league goals to his name, the last of which came in November, Joelinton was the leading scorer in the Newcastle lineup. Ritchie, who apologised for barging Bruce in training, took his place among the substitutes.
Joelinton, in fairness, had a good game but the striker always looked more comfortable bringing others into play than when bearing down on goal himself. He tested Sam Johnstone at his near post with 20 minutes to play but, with a dozen minutes gone, would have presented the ball to Fraser for a tap-in only for Kyle Bartley to expertly intercept. Joelinton switched on the afterburners to tear through towards goal after being slipped in by Willock but unselfishly – and perhaps owing to a lack of confidence – attempted to square the ball for Fraser. On the touchline Bruce threw his right arm in frustration.
Sam Allardyce spent the entire first half seemingly shielding in the home dugout, legs crossed, arms folded, chewing vigorously. He watched Matheus Pereira spurn a half-chance when the winger arrived towards the penalty spot unmarked to skew Conor Townsend’s cross wide and the West Brom full-back was the source of much of the hosts’ enterprise. Mbaye Diagne sent a volley over after Bartley beat three Newcastle defenders to flick on a Darnell Furlong long throw but nine minutes into the second half Matt Phillips passed up arguably the best chance of the bunch, blazing over under pressure from Jamaal Lascelles after meeting Townsend’s low cross inside the box.
Newcastle, too, will feel they could have yielded victory, even if clearcut chances were in short supply. Jonjo Shelvey appeared subdued and at times easily bypassed in midfield but sent a first-time shot at Johnstone from a short-corner routine, via Phillips’ knee, and the West Brom goalkeeper later repelled a Willock shot from the angle. Dwight Gayle arrived approaching the hour mark but was starved of any service and Andy Carroll replaced Fraser with seconds left to play but Newcastle at least came away unscathed. - Guardian