Newcastle boss Steve Bruce praised his side for claiming an “important” point in Sunday’s goalless draw at West Brom after a week dominated by training ground rows and a mounting injury list.
Magpies midfielder Matt Ritchie apologised to Bruce in midweek following a training ground bust-up between the pair.
Bruce then denied reports the players were unhappy with the team’s training schedule and pledged to find the person responsible for leaking details about the club to the press during a fractious news conference on Friday.
He also went to the Hawthorns without his three first-choice attacking players, but saw his side earn a battling point that moves them above Brighton into 16th and four points clear of the relegation zone before Fulham’s game against Liverpool.
“I was delighted with their attitude and spirit,” Bruce told BBC Match of the Day. “We showed a real desire to get something out of the game. In terms of the problems we have had, in terms of injuries not rows, it was important.”We have been hamstrung a bit with [injuries to] big players at the top end of the pitch. For their effort and attitude I could not ask for anything more.”With Newcastle things seem to get blown out of proportion. Rows happen every other day at every other club up and down the country.”
The Magpies had the better opportunities in a game lacking attacking fluency, but West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was alert to deny Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Willock either side of half-time.
Mbaye Diagne had the best chance for the Baggies when his header was tipped behind by Martin Dubravka, while Matt Phillips fired over when well placed early in the second half.The draw means West Brom stay 19th and are now eight points from safety.
Magpies edging towards safety
Bruce may have been happy to claim a point but this was far from an inspiring performance.
His cause has not been helped by injuries to key players and the Magpies went to the Hawthorns without leading scorer Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin – a trio responsible for 16 of their 27 league goals so far.
In their absence Bruce sent out a makeshift forward line of Ryan Fraser, Joelinton and Willock, who have scored two goals between them this campaign.
Joelinton did have an early sight of goal when he was played in by Willock down the right, but he opted to pass instead of shoot and his square ball towards Fraser was cut out.
Bruce introduced Dwight Gayle, who scored 23 goals for West Brom in the Championship two seasons ago, early in the second half to try and boost his side’s attacking threat.
And he made an impact within minutes of coming on, with his run and layoff teeing up Willock, whose drive from a tight angle was pushed behind by Johnstone.
Joelinton also saw a timid effort comfortably saved by the Baggies goalkeeper as Newcastle’s attacking threat slowly fizzled out.
“That little bit of quality at times we lacked a bit, but that is what you pay money for,” said Bruce. “Where we have invested over the last few months, unfortunately they are all injured.”
Bruce has regularly talked about ‘accumulation of points’ when plotting Newcastle’s survival and this draw helps that cause.
But with seven of the current top 10 lying in wait in their final 11 matches they will likely need to offer a greater attacking threat than they showed here if they are to avoid a nervous end to the season.
Baggies let down by lack of cutting edge
Sam Allardyce has succeeded in making West Brom tougher to beat, but like Sunday’s opponents, goalscoring is becoming a problem.
The Baggies have kept three clean sheets and earned six points in their past five games, one more than they earned in Allardyce’s first 10 matches in charge, but have only scored two goals in that time.
They would have moved to within six points of Newcastle with a win and while a draw is not a disastrous result, they are running out of games if they are to bridge the now eight-point gap between themselves and safety.
Full-back Conor Townsend was their biggest attacking threat as they looked to build patiently down the left, with the five chances he created more than any West Brom player has managed from open play for seven years.
However, the Baggies failed to truly test Dubravka in the Newcastle goal, with Matheus Pereira scuffing an early opportunity straight at the Slovak.
A long throw then produced a chance for Diagne when Kyle Bartley flicked the ball into his path, but he could only fire over while off-balance.
Their best opportunity fell to Phillips early in the second half when Pereira worked the ball low into the box, but the winger’s effort was indicative of the match in general as it flew wildly over the bar.
Newcastle still cannot win without Wilson – the stats
- West Brom are unbeaten in three home league games against Newcastle (W1 D2) for the first time since January 2005 (3 draws in a row).
- Only Southampton (7) have gained fewer Premier League points in 2021 than West Brom (10) and Newcastle (8).
- West Brom have amassed six points in their last five Premier League games (W1 D3 L1), keeping three clean sheets, more points than they gained (5) in their first 10 such games under Sam Alladyce (W1 D2 L7).
- Newcastle have won only one of their past nine Premier League away games (D1 L7), failing to score in six of those matches.
- West Brom had 13 shots at goal in the match, their joint-most attempts without scoring in a Premier League game this season (also 13 v Burnley in October).
- Conor Townsend created five chances in the match, the most from open play by a West Brom player in the Premier League since April 2014 (Morgan Amalfitano vs West Ham – 5).
- Newcastle have failed to win any of their past four Premier League games since Callum Wilson was injured during their win over Southampton in February (D2 L2). Since the start of last season, the Magpies are winless in their four Premier League matches when both Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin have failed to feature (D1 L3).
Newcastle are at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Friday (20:00 GMT), while West Brom travel to another of Sam Allardyce’s former clubs Crystal Palace the following day (15:00).
West Bromwich Albion
- 12Costa Pereira
- 10PhillipsSubstituted forGrantat 83′minutes
- 17DiagneSubstituted forRobson-Kanuat 84′minutes
- 16HendrickSubstituted forGayleat 57′minutes
- 21FraserSubstituted forCarrollat 90+3′minutes
- 36S Longstaff
Match ends, West Bromwich Albion 0, Newcastle United 0.
Second Half ends, West Bromwich Albion 0, Newcastle United 0.
Okay Yokuslu (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Andy Carroll (Newcastle United).
Substitution, Newcastle United. Andy Carroll replaces Ryan Fraser.
Attempt missed. Okay Yokuslu (West Bromwich Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Ryan Fraser.
Foul by Conor Townsend (West Bromwich Albion).
Emil Krafth (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Joelinton (Newcastle United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Jonjo Shelvey.
Foul by Conor Townsend (West Bromwich Albion).
Joelinton (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Matheus Pereira (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United).
Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. Hal Robson-Kanu replaces Mbaye Diagne.
Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. Karlan Grant replaces Matt Phillips.
Attempt blocked. Kyle Bartley (West Bromwich Albion) header from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Matheus Pereira with a cross.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Paul Dummett.
Attempt missed. Mbaye Diagne (West Bromwich Albion) header from very close range misses to the right following a corner.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Ciaran Clark.