Eddie Howe may have finally found the right blend of players to solve Newcastle’s defensive issues

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For the first half an hour, Newcastle’s players struggled to get to grips with that emotion. They were roared on to the pitch when they emerged from the tunnel and again when the whistle blew to start the game, but did not seem sure how to approach the game;  whether to throw everything at Burnley or keep things tight and make sure they did not make a mistake.

It was not what their supporters wanted to see and Burnley were sharper and more threatening in those early exchange. 

Newcastle, understandably given they had not won a game since May, were hesitant and  nervous. It made them far too timid, their passing slow and deliberate,  allowing Burnley to hold their defensive shape. Indeed, had the vistors been a bit more precise with their final ball, they could have taken the lead in the first half. As the home fans began to moan and groan, a devilish cross from Dwight McNeil curled into the area, but bounced harmlessly out for a goal kick.

Newcastle’s midfield was particularly slow to get going and having failed to clear the ball were fortunate when Johann Gudmundsson’s was able to get a shot away that thumped against the post.

For the first time since Howe took charge of the team, the fans screamed in anger at the players. It woke them up.

With Allan Saint Maximin  starting to pick up possession in the gaps between Burnley’s defenders and midfield, Newcastle started to find some flow offensively, Miguel Almiron firing over before a magnificent tackle by Charlie Taylor, who prevented a certain goal.

Burnley will have felt they had done enough to go in at the break level, but having been denied by a superb piece of defending, Wilson was gifted a goal by some terrible goalkeeping. Nick Pope could have punched the ball, but instead decided the cross from Joe Willock was so unthreatening that he would catch it. 

It was not an error in judgement, rather one of execution. It should have been as simple as he thought it would be, but having taken the ball easil in the air, he did not gather it into his chest as he came down, jumping straight into Fabian Schar. Had he taken a proper catch into his chest, it would have not have mattered, but with his arms away from his body, the ball landed on the head of the Newcastle player and came loose. Wilson could not believe his luck, turning sharply to hit a shot through a crowd of bodies to give Newcastle the lead.

It eased the tension inside the stadium, liberating Newcastle’s players and they pushed forward for the second goal that would give them breathing space. It did not come. Almiron could not hit the target and when he did, his shot was diverted away from the top corner by a Burnley head.

The goal would not come, no matter how hard the Gallowgate End urged it to as their team attacked down hill towards them.

With an hour played, Newcastle’s lead remained a slender one and a defence that had not kept a clean sheet all season was always in danger of calamity.

Newcastle have got into winning positions many times this season but have not been able to hold on to them. Burnley did not offer much of an attacking threat, but defended well enough to keep Newcastle at arm’s length and then came the final push for the equaliser as their hosts grew tired and the doubts began to chip away until they had abandoned the thought of a second goal to protect the one they already had.

It was exciruciating and when Jay Rodriguez stabbed the ball into the net, it looked like another disaster had struck. The linesman’s flag brought relief, a Var check confirming Rodriguez had moved goalside but also ahead of Jamaal Lascelles.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche blamed his side’s failure to build on their positive first-half performance as the reason for their defeat. “Goals change the feel of games, not just the scoreline, and it did for them,” he said. “It gave them something to hang on to and it changed the feel in the stadium.”

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