Magpies salvage precious point to halt losing streak
Newcastle United 1 West Brom 1
Newcastle United failed to win. Again. They kicked off with Sunderland, of all clubs, having gone above them, they still fell from 15th to 17th in the Premier League table - and for nine horrendous minutes they were even in the bottom three. Could it unravel any more?
And, yet, it was almost a good afternoon for them in the end. They arrested a slide of eight successive defeats and they eked out a point that could be so desperately precious in their dispiriting fight - if it can be called a fight - to avoid relegation. And the crowd did not turn.
"Hopefully it is not too late," said manager John Carver. "I don't believe it is."
They have two matches left - away to Queens Park Rangers, who could be down by then and so could be liberated or lacklustre, and at home to West Ham United who have been the latter since the turn of the year.
The permutations, the mathematics and the variables will continue and although Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini declared that this draw meant "it leaves it in our hands" that has always been the case.
But few would trust these players or Carver to deliver on that.
Afterwards he did not want to talk. He fielded three questions and he was clearly irked by the reporting of his claim that he believed he was the league's best coach.
"It's just like another week in my world," Carver said, referencing the debacle at Leicester City and his meltdown as he accused Mike Williamson of deliberately getting himself sent off.
"It has been a tough week. Some of the things that I have said have maybe been taken in the wrong context. When I play golf and I am on the first tee I think I am the best golfer in the world. When I played cricket as a kid I thought I was the best cricketer. Read into that what you will." The remark was "tongue-in-cheek", he said.
Carver's reading of the game itself was also suspect. He claimed that only one team wanted to win it - neglecting to recall that Albion struck the woodwork twice - but he was right in adding that at least the atmosphere was far from the feared toxic cauldron.
"There was a response from the players and from the fans,: said Carver. "It felt like being back in a football stadium and the only thing that mattered was the football. And that was nice."
There were a smattering of boos soon after Newcastle fell behind, there was some frustration, there were a few angry remarks trained towards Carver but the greatest danger was the fear of resignation over relegation; the fear of apathy and that the fans had given up as the players had appeared to do so of late.
The nature of Albion's goal - another set-piece concession, another woeful abdication of responsibility, as Victor Anichebe was able to pull away and guide his header, from a free-kick, beyond Tim Krul's dive, followed by another head-down, defeated trudge back for the re-start - seemed to be all too predictable.
Even before that Newcastle could have been behind. Again it was a set-play, this time a corner, as Craig Dawson rose to plant a header that cannoned off the post. But before they fell behind they could have been in front, only for Joleon Lescott to hack Moussa Sissoko's goal-bound shot off the line.
Newcastle's goal was fortuitous as Ryan Taylor appeared to miscue a free-kick but it fell to Ayoze Perez who turned and shot low, possibly with a deflection, to beat Boaz Myhill.
The point, as manager Tony Pulis later remarked, meant Albion are mathematically safe. This rescue mission, he said, had been the hardest - harder than at Stoke City or Crystal Palace. But not as hard as what Carver is going through. That is no laughing matter.