West Brom – Newcastle: Sam Allardyce bossed the tactical battle with Steve Bruce, but his West Bromwich Albion could not find its finish in a scoreless draw that may end up dooming both teams.
The Hawthorns was the scene for a nil-nil that defied the odds given both teams had combined to concede 100 goals and almost 30 shots per game in 53 games.’s
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West Brom was better and brighter, but still managed just 13 shots to Newcastle’s nine and is now eight points back of safety with 10 matches to play.
Newcastle’s 27 points are good for 16th, one ahead of Brighton and four clear of Fulham. It may not be enough.
Three things we learned from West Brom – Newcastle
1. Dreadful Newcastle given reprieve, point: West Brom might’ve kept two clean sheets in its last three outings, but remain the worst defensive team and worst open play side in the Premier League. Newcastle fans might be surprised to realize their team is not leading the league in the latter statistics, but the Magpies have 17 goals and 32 conceded in open play compared to 12 and 45 for the Baggies. So, of course, the big chances were somehow at a premium amongst two terrible defenses. Newcastle had the excuse of missing its three best attackers in Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson, and Allan Saint-Maximin, and under-fire manager Steve Bruce countered those absences by… playing a 4-3-1-2 with Ryan Fraser and Joelinton up top, architects of a combined one goal and four assists in 1800 minutes this season. Given the Baggies aerial weaknesses, Andy Carroll was the right sub for Bruce to make but not in the third minute of stoppage.
2. Big Sam’s bright Baggies fail with the final ball: Sam Allardyce had the better game plan against Bruce in their 19th head-to-head meeting, with Conor Townsend advanced from left back to test Emil Krafth on the right and four attack-minded midfielders joining Mbaye Diagne in pushing the Magpies’ back seven of sorts. But there was no finish, and Matheus Pereira set the tone with a great run but mishit shot early in the game.
3. Bruce may cost Magpies top-flight status: Three points here might’ve been enough to keep Newcastle above the bottom three for weeks, but Steve Bruce’s failure to plan for West Brom — the Magpies have reportedly been given plenty of days off despite their struggles — was apparent. West Brom concedes the most shots per game in the Premier League (15.3) and is the only team with worse possession than the Magpies. Even with the side’s injuries, a manager in this situation would’ve been expected to assemble a team that would challenge the Baggies with vigor by air and land. No such luck.
Man of the Match: Conor Townsend
West Brom’s Okay Yokulsu was also quite good, and Ciaran Clark decisive for the visitors, but Townsend was the focus of the Baggies’ attack and the left back was also very strong in his own end. His five key passes should’ve returned at least one assist and the 27-year-old contributed four interceptions and three tackles.
West Brom – Newcastle recap
There were nerves early, fullbacks losing the place at both ends, but Newcastle had the better of the frenetic opening 10 minutes though it was apparent the Magpies’ attacking absences were apparent.
Joelinton bodied his mark for a Joe Willock through ball, but chose to pass to Ryan Fraser rather than shoot and Kyle Bartley slid to limit the damage to a corner, which sprung a poorly-worked West Brom break.
Matheus Pereira put a Conor Townsend cross into the arms of Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka in the 20th minute, and Magpies midfielder Jonjo Shelvey spun a shot that Johnstone did very well to save at the half-hour mark.
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Townsend put another solid cross into the mix and Mbaye Diagne nodded a corner down that Dubravka did well to punch away from goal.
West Brom started brightly in the second half, carrying over its play from the first half, and Newcastle would’ve deservedly been down when Matty Phillips blazed over goal in the 55th.
Substitute Dwight Gayle led a Newcastle counter after Joelinton won a 50-50 ball at midfield, playing in Joe Willock for a hard shot that Johnstone pushed out for a corner. Ciaran Clark headed the ensuing service over the bar.
Joelinton might’ve made it 1-0 off a Joe Willock feed in the 72nd minute but the Brazilian’s confidence with the ball in the 18 is quite low.