Neither Newcastle United or Brighton and Hove Albion could break their recent slumps in the Premier League, playing out a forgettable 0-0 draw at St James’ Park on Saturday.
The Seagulls and Magpies went into the game hoping to improve on runs of one win in nine and 11 games respectively, and both looked like sides lacking in form.
Rafael Benitez and former Toon boss Chris Hughton went with expansive-looking line-ups following under-powered defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea respectively last time out, but the contest was too stretched for large parts.
Karl Darlow saved from Lewis Dunk while Mat Ryan denied Isaac Hayden and Dwight Gayle at the other end, although none of the chances were gilt-edged.
The Toon remain just a point above the drop zone, but they can at least be thankful to have ended a run of five successive defeats on home turf, while Hughton’s men are in safer climes, three points further ahead.
FT: Albion secure another @premierleague point on the road. Ryan made two brilliant saves to keep the game level. Dunk and Duffy both went close, but neither side could find a breakthrough. #NUFC 0 #BHAFC 0 #NEWBHA pic.twitter.com/I7EDUFbcxf
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) December 30, 2017
Benitez removed the shackles from his side after their safety-first outing against City, but there was little to lift anyone from their seat until Matt Ritchie drifted a promising free-kick out of play, bringing his manager to the touchline to vent his frustration.
The visitors were unable to muster much better, Anthony Knockaert drifting the first half’s sole shot on target into Darlow’s midriff and Shane Duffy sending a half-volley over.
Newcastle finally broke their torpor and Mikel Merino and Joselu fired off target, before the Magpies’ frailty at set-pieces was once again laid bare, only for Duffy to loop a header over the crossbar.
Ryan made two superb saves to keep Brighton level in the opening stages of the second half, clawing Hayden’s deflected effort around the post and showing razor-sharp reflexes to repel Gayle’s flicked header.
Darlow was solid behind Pascal Gross’ firmly struck free-kick at the other end between those chances and Hughton was first to look to his bench, replacing the ineffective Glenn Murray with Tomer Hemed.
The hosts had muted penalty appeals turned down as Gayle and then Merino went to ground inside the Brighton box, but the visitors successfully held firm to preserve a point that leaves them looking down on an increasingly fraught battle against the drop.
Key Opta stats:
– Newcastle have now won just one point in their last six Premier League home games at St James’ Park (W0 D1 L5).
– The Magpies have scored just two goals from 71 shots in their six league games at St James’ Park since the start of November (2.8 per cent)
– This was the fourth time that Brighton have drawn 0-0 in the Premier League this season – a joint league-high alongside West Brom.
– In fact, this was the 11th time that Brighton have failed to score in 21 Premier League games this season – the most in the competition, level with Crystal Palace and Swansea City.
– Newcastle made seven changes to their starting XI in this match (from their last game vs Man City) – the most that a side has made in a Premier League game this season.
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