Newcastle held by Bournemouth as Premier League ‘draw specialists’ drop 2 points
NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United are making a name for themselves in the Premier League this season — but it is a moniker they would ideally want to avoid.
Many see United not as European contenders or top six breakers, but as the top flight’s “draw specialists” after they recorded their fifth draw in their opening seven games.
For Eddie Howe, against his former club, it yet again feels like two points dropped, rather than one gained.
And when you hit a cherry-red wall, you need a spark or some quality to break it down — and for Newcastle, as has been the case so often this season, they have found themselves wanting in that department yet again — that, despite the return to the side of Brazilian midfielder maestro Bruno Guimaraes.
Howe’s men fell behind in the 62nd minute when Philip Billing poked home a cross from the left against the run of play. United bit back almost instantaneously as Alexander Isak hammered home from the spot, but that proved to be the final decisive action of yet another frustrating Tyneside encounter, just a fortnight after a similarly blunt draw, and opportunity missed, against Crystal Palace.
On the selection front Howe brought Guimaraes straight back into the side in place of Sean Longstaff, with Dan Burn preferred to Sven Botman in the heart of defense.
And while the Magpies dominated the opening exchanges in terms of field position and possession, it was the visitors who created the first real goalscoring opportunity of the afternoon.
On the break, as they so often were, a ball in from the United right fell kindly on to the head of the impressive Marcus Tavernier, a former Newcastle academy graduate, but with Nick Pope beaten the effort looped wide.
Finding spaces in dangerous areas was not hard for United — they had that one locked down. But creating anything meaningful from it was another story altogether.
All too often Bournemouth keeper Neto was made to look like a world-beater as ball after ball was lobbed into his grateful grasp, from left and from right.
Some persistent play from the ever energetic Miguel Almiron saw him win the ball high and curl at goal, but again Neto was equal to it.
Trippier, often United’s match-winner, then struck the post from an almost identical spot to his Manchester City free-kick. Oh how United could have done with this one lighting the blue touch paper on Tyneside, but frustrations continued. Next it was Joelinton to strike the upright as he curled off the inside of the post, then see a follow-up volley saved again by Neto.
An injection of purpose and tempo seemed to up the levels in the second half as Ryan Fraser, booed at every opportunity by the fans of his former club, curled just inches wide, then much to everyone’s surprise, it was the back-foot Cherries who managed to turn an already somber St. James’ Park even more deathly silent.
On 62 minutes United were caught on the break as a swift Bournemouth move down the left looked to find an opening. The first wave of progress was thwarted by the United backline only for Jordan Zemura to curl a perfect ball into the area, and the advancing Billing to flick in at the near post with Pope helpless.
Far from retreating into their shell, United kept probing, with Trippier their only real outlet on the right — and it was the England international who created an opportunity which led to the equalizer.
His low cross, which was searching for Isak at the back post, was diverted away from danger by the hand of a Bournemouth defender. And although his contribution to that point had been minimal, Sweden international Isak picked the ball up to send Neto the wrong way for 1-1.
And while the Magpies pushed for more, and looked the more likely to get another, their quest was to prove ultimately fruitless.
While the draw with Palace was recorded without trio Guimaraes, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson, this one did at least see the former return to the midfield.
And although that was a pre-game boost, it did not provide anywhere near the level of creativity United needed in the middle.
On this showing, it is more obvious than that the side misses Saint-Maximin more than most.
Even when not playing at the top of his game, the Frenchman is a constant source of headaches for the opposition. He stretches defenses and commits bodies. The only player who even got close to that level of influence at St. James’ Park was Trippier. But from right back, the England international was hardly going to win this one on his own. He gave it a good go, though.
The old adage is, if you cannot win it, make sure you do not lose it. And, in fairness, United did just that. However, it would be naive to think that Howe, his players, staff and the fans did not walk away from St. James’ Park with a real sense of disappointment.
In truth, though, it is hard to make a case to say Newcastle deserved anything more than just one point from the fixture.
They need to start turning draws into wins, especially if private preseason expectations are to be anywhere close to met.