Newcastle United’s struggle to hold onto the top spot continues as they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day to slip to the 2nd spot after Brighton dispatched QPR 3-0 at home. Currently, on 49 points, they have fallen 2 points behind Brighton and will have to pick themselves up again.
Newcastle were slow to get off the blocks but after the initial stutter, two incredible winning streaks got them back to where Rafa Benitez had envisaged them to be at. But the back to back losses against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest saw their momentum being knocked back. But 3 wins on the trot before this loss sees them 2nd on the Championship table right now.
The Magpies are in no immediate danger of falling further down the table with Reading a good 6 points off them but they need to bounce back in order to maintain pace with Brighton. Rafa Benitez and his boys will have an opportunity as early as Friday night to get back to winning ways as they face a Nottingham Forest side who are currently languishing in the 18th spot. But they won’t be taking anything for granted as the 0-1 reverse at home against Sheffield Wednesday illustrated exactly that.
On an evening when the Magpies weren’t helped by some poor decisions by referee Paul Tierney, they also didn’t help themselves with some poor finishing. The visitors had made a decent start to the game and had a couple of opportunities early on but their apparent lack of quality saw Newcastle comfortably clear their lines.
As Newcastle United struggled to stamp their authority on the game, it was a rare Glenn Loovens’ goal which saw them notch up a 5th win in 6 games and on this evidence they can’t be ruled out of trying to go for the jugular themselves.
And it was widely accepted that the Owls deserved the win on merit and the fact that Darlow was Newcastle’s best player spoke volume of the manner in which the game went by.
Jonjo Shelvey was missed and missed badly by the home side. The midfielder started his suspension and with 4 matches still to go, they have to learn to win without him. His drive and creativity from midfield made him one of a kind in the Championship and despite the baggage that he brings, Shelvey is a vital player for the Magpies.
With an opportunity coming up against Nottingham Forest, let us take a look at how Rafa Benitez might line his boys up. He might look to push back Diame into central midfield and opt for strength and drive from midfield with Ayoze Perez starting behind the striker after replacing Jack Colback.