Paul Dummett has warned Newcastle they face 18 cup finals in their attempt to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The Magpies squandered an opportunity to lift themselves out of the drop zone on Saturday when they allowed a lead slip from their grasp as fellow strugglers Watford snatched a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park.
Dummett, a veteran of the club’s last slide into the Sky Bet Championship at the end of the 2015-16 campaign and a series of near misses since, knows exactly what it will take to avoid a repeat, and is aware that process cannot start soon enough.
He told NUFC TV: “Everyone in the changing room knows how important this is. I’ve been in this situation before down at the bottom of the league and every game is like a cup final now.
“This game was a chance missed. We knows as a squad that draws aren’t going to keep us in the league and every game that goes past is an opportunity missed.
“Today was a big opportunity missed with the chance that we had and we didn’t take all three points. We have to evaluate and then train hard next week and hopefully we can take three against Leeds next week.”
Newcastle, with £25million signing Chris Wood in the team for the first time, took a deserved lead when Allan Saint-Maximin produced a moment of magic, dispossessing full-back Jeremy Ngakia before carving his way into the penalty area and blasting an unstoppable shot past keeper Ben Foster.
However, whether consciously or otherwise, the goal sent Eddie Howe’s nervy side into retreat – the head coach later admitted they had gone into “protection mode” far too early – and they were made to pay at the death when Joao Pedro levelled with a fine header from Kiko Femenia’s cross.
The Magpies have dropped 21 points from winning positions this season and won only one of the 10 league games in which they have taken the lead, and a failure to address those damning statistics over what remains of the campaign is likely to prove fatal.
Dummett, making his first appearance since May last year after finally shaking off a calf injury, was delighted to be back, but his personal situation was secondary.
He said: “I’m happy that I was on the pitch, but ultimately it’s a team game and we didn’t win, so that’s the most disappointing thing.”
Watford remain in 17th place and two points clear of Newcastle having played a game fewer with Norwich, who beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday, separating them and bottom-of-the-pile Burnley having games in hand on all three.
The Hornets face the Clarets and the Canaries in quick succession next week and Foster, who returned to action on Tyneside after a groin injury which had sidelined him since November, is under no illusions as to what lies ahead.
He told Watford’s website: “They’re all six-pointers, simple as that. The most important thing is to not lose, because we know if we do the teams below us are gaining ground on us and possibly overtake us, so that goal today is massive.
“It’s a nice feeling to come away from here with a point because it’s a difficult place to come when the Newcastle fans get going and get behind the team.”