Newcastle’s European hopes on a knife-edge after Brighton draw

Anthony Gordon reacts after having a goal disallowed
Anthony Gordon had a goal disallowed, which could prove very costly - Getty Images/George Wood

Newcastle United will travel to Manchester United on Wednesday night needing only their second league victory at Old Trafford in 51 years to be sure of European qualification.

With the club’s Saudi Arabian chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan making a rare appearance at St James’ Park, after he travelled to England for a full board meeting on Thursday, Newcastle have left themselves work to do after Brighton did enough to secure a well earned draw.

It leaves the door open for both Chelsea and Manchester United to move ahead of Newcastle with two games left to play and although there were hugs on the pitch and loud chanting of manager Eddie Howe’s name, this felt like a bit of an anti-climax.

It was an intensely frustrating game. Brighton took an early lead through Joel Veltman and then did their best to irritate and frustrate their hosts. They were good at it too, ensuring Howe’s side could not build up any real attacking momentum, with some pretty blatant time-wasting tricks, but also some sharp passing play to keep possession.

Joel Veltman gets in front of Elliot Anderson at the far post to put Brighton ahead
Joel Veltman gets in front of Elliot Anderson to put Brighton ahead - Getty Images/George Wood

Newcastle equalised with the last kick of the first half, in the final seconds of added time, when Anthony Gordon and Elliott Anderson combined to set up Sean Longstaff for a side-footed finish in front of the Gallowgate End.

Sean Longstaff equalises for Newcastle
Sean Longstaff equalises for Newcastle - PA/Owen Humphreys

It was a goal that secured a little bit of history, ensuring this team became the first to score in every home game this season in the Premier League era and the first to do it in the top flight for 65 years. Nobody can say they are not entertaining but they also have their flaws and this was not the moment to have a blip.

The home side were much better in the second half and threw everything they could at Brighton. Substitute Harvey Barnes failed to take two decent opportunities late on and Gordon had a goal ruled out for offside as Miguel Almiron had strayed offside in the build up.

It means Newcastle will have to finish the job on the road, where they have been inconsistent and occasionally downright bad this season. Their last league victory at Old Trafford came under Alan Pardew back in 2013, which ended a wait for a win that had lasted since 1972.

Newcastle’s record in Manchester is poor and they also lost to Erik ten Hag’s side in the Carabao Cup final last season, but beat them in the early rounds of this year’s competition at Old Trafford. It is difficult to decide who will be favourites, particularly as Manchester United also have an FA Cup final to prepare for.

It is not quite the same high stakes at play as there were when the two clubs were trading blows for the Premier League title in the 1990s, but it sets things up nicely for an end-of-season showdown.

That Newcastle have managed to get themselves back into the fight for a top six finish has been laudable but there would be a huge sense of deflation if they missed out now.

“It’s in our hands, we can control what we need to control,” said Howe. “I think we are playing well, I think there has been an upturn in our performances since the start of the year. It sets things up nicely for the last two games. They are two massive games for us and that is how we will approach them

“Our home form has been excellent, we’ve been really strong here and I’m just sad that we couldn’t sign off with a win. Our away from has been inconsistent, we’ve struggled for that, but this is the perfect time to put that right. We know what we need to do and we are always confident when we have the group of players we do, but I’m sure the other teams are saying the same thing.”

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