Steve Bruce likes to say groups are solely nearly as good as their strikers. Happily for Newcastle’s supervisor, he possesses an excellent centre ahead in Callum Wilson who has proved splendidly adept at camouflaging colleagues flaws whereas preserving his aspect in mid-table.
Wilson was at it once more right here, serving to airbrush a poor dwelling efficiency by successful, and changing, an equalising penalty which additionally prefaced the sending off of Fulham’s Joachim Andersen. It made for a combined return to Tyneside for Scott Parker whose bettering aspect are absolutely too good for an instantaneous return to the Championship.
Steve Bruce made 5 adjustments from the aspect who succumbed 5-2 at Leeds final Wednesday, with the 2 most notable alterations coming in each full-back positions, the place DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett made their first league begins of the season. Each got thorough exercises.
As a former Newcastle midfielder, Scott Parker knew how a lot a spot within the first crew would imply to Aleksandar Mitrovic and duly reintroduced the previous St James’ Park cult hero at centre-forward. In the meantime Tom Cairney’s left-foot creativity was restored to midfield the place he was joined by Bobby Decordova-Reid after Ivan Cavaleiro injured himself within the warm-up.
Karl Darlow was quickly required to divert Cairney’s deflected shot and, shortly afterwards, Fulham failed to simply accept a superb alternative to take the lead. When André-Frank Zambo Anguissa crossed from the left, the lofted ball was met by an unmarked Ademola Lookman round 12 yards out however, fortuitously for Bruce, he headed straight at Darlow and the save was comfy.
Alphonse Areola had far fewer frights in Fulham’s objective as Parker’s aspect more and more managed possession, one thing facilitated by Newcastle’s penchant for repeatedly gifting the ball to their friends.
Matt Ritchie’s, albeit unintentional, generosity even prolonged to scoring an personal objective, the ball flying, bizarrely, off the frantically again peddling winger’s chin and past a wrong-footed Darlow after Tosin Adarabioyo had induced consternation by flicking on a Cairney nook. Poor Ritchie can confidently count on to see this second of mortification earmarked for repeated views in compilations of the season’s most comedic moments.
As Bruce trudged off to ship his half-time homily, Newcastle’s possession quotient had dropped to 33%, whereas Areola had solely been correctly stretched as soon as within the opening 45 minutes when he dived well to smother Miguel Almirón’s low shot.
In mitigation, Newcastle’s supervisor continues to be with out a quartet of senior gamers struggling to get well from Covid-19, with two significantly unwell. However his aspect’s unlucky stylistic distinction with Fulham won’t have been misplaced on Bruce’s critics.
If Fulham are starting to detect a transparent pathway to the sunlit uplands of mid-table, their hosts are at risk of slipping down in direction of the hazard zone. Because the clocked ticked down on the second half, Newcastle’s League Cup quarter closing at Brentford on Tuesday began to look extra of a burden than a pleasure. And significantly contemplating Manchester Metropolis, Liverpool and Leicester are their subsequent three Premier League opponents.
In current weeks Bruce has reverted to 4-4-2 however it could actually are likely to look a bit analogue in opposition to extra fluid sides comparable to Fulham and, on this proof finally, Jonjo Shelvey and Sean Longstaff usually are not the answer to his central midfield conundrum.
Bruce’s detractors prefer to sneer that his successes derive from sheer luck. That may be a little harsh however, right here, they benefited from Joachim Andersen’s self-destructive choice to bundle Callum Wilson over within the field after Newcastle’s main scorer had been put clear by means of on objective by Almirón within the wake of Ola Aina’s careless concession of possession.
Graham Scott, the referee, instantly pointed to the penalty spot, however was then despatched to his VAR monitor and Andersen was subsequently proven a crimson card for denying a transparent lower goalscoring alternative.
Because the defender headed down the tunnel, Wilson despatched Areola the fallacious solution to register his eighth objective of the season since arriving from Bournemouth in the summertime. Goodness is aware of the place Newcastle could be with out Wilson and his objectives.