Newcastle staring at relegation after failing to beat lowly Aston Villa
Published 07/05/2016 | 17:14
Newcastle's Barclays Premier League fate is out of their own hands after a goalless draw at already-relegated Aston Villa.
The Magpies created the better chances but were wasteful in front of goal, most notably in the second half through Jack Colback and Aleksandar Mitrovic - who also went very close to breaking the deadlock with a header.
The point extended their unbeaten run to five matches under Rafa Benitez but Newcastle finished the day in the bottom three after north-east rivals Sunderland twice came from behind to beat Chelsea 3-2 at the Stadium of Light.
It leaves The Toon a point behind the Black Cats, who have a game in hand and could send Benitez's side down with victory at home to Everton on Wednesday night.
For Villa, it meant Villa Park bid farewell to top flight football for the first time since 1987 and at least Eric Black's team avoided the indignity of setting a new club record of 12 successive league defeats.
Villa and Newcastle could be renewing acquaintances in the Championship next season but two clubs who certainly will are Villa and Birmingham.
And in a prelude to next season's derby there was evidence of the Second City rivalry reaching sky high levels before kick-off at Villa Park as a light aircraft flew over the stadium with a banner in tow reading ''Randy Lerner is a Blue'', in reference to the decline of Villa in recent years under the American's ownership and ultimately their relegation this season.
On the pitch it was a scrappy start to the game as both sides struggled to find any rhythm.
There was a let-off for Villa in the 18th minute when Moussa Sissoko's driven, low cross from the right-hand side evaded everyone in a crowded penalty area. Any sort of touch could have seen the ball diverted into the net.
Shortly afterwards another attack down the same side saw Papiss Cisse latch on to Vurnon Anita's through ball but the Senegal striker scuffed his attempt at a first-time shot and Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn gathered.
The two combined again after 36 minutes but once more Cisse's connection was not what he hoped and his volley into the ground bounced high and safely into Bunn's arms.
Villa enjoyed their first real spell of sustained pressure as half-time approached but a succession of Alan Hutton crosses into the penalty area were cleared by Newcastle - namely Chancel Mbemba.
Colback spurned a glorious chance to give Newcastle the lead right at the start of the second half when he blasted the ball over the crossbar from around the penalty spot after good work by Andros Townsend.
Another equally glaring opportunity went begging on the hour when Cheick Tiote hooked a ball back into the penalty area where Mitrovic's run was not tracked but the substitute lifted the ball over the advancing Bunn and on to the roof of the net.
The chances kept on coming for Newcastle and Bunn got down well to block a fiercely-struck low drive by Georginio Wijnaldum before both sets of fans inside Villa Park collectively held their breath as a Mitrovic header looped narrowly wide, with Bunn beaten.
That coincided with the latest 74th-minute protest from Villa fans as they attempted to halt play by throwing balloons and inflatable football on to the pitch, but much like the real ball many of them failed to find their target.
As news of Sunderland's third goal against Chelsea filtered through Newcastle tried to apply some late pressure but Villa, unusually for them this season, defended well and brought the curtain down on their home campaign with a point.
To avoid what would have been viewed as a slap in the face for supporters, and the possibility of insighting vitriolic outbursts, Villa sensibly decided to cancel the traditional lap of appreciation that is customary following the final home game of the season. Villa also cancelled their Player of the Year awards last month.
Following such a dismal campaign which has brought just three Premier League wins a walk of shame would be more apt, although a handful of players did clap the supporters as they made their way towards the tunnel - even if they were not that well received.