Newcastle still searching for first Premier League win of the season after Brighton stalemate

BRIGHTON: New Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe is primed to take over the Magpies at their lowest ebb as the club recorded their worst start to a season in their 129-year history having failed to beat Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Howe was flanked by trusted assistant Jason Tindall and Newcastle director Amanda Staveley in the Amex Stadium directors' box as a Leandro Trossard penalty, courtesy of VAR, was cancelled out in the second-half by Isaac Hayden's volleyed leveler. 

Robert Sanchez was dismissed for the Seagulls as the game moved into added time, but the Magpies could not take their first three points of the campaign at the 11th attempt with their late one-man advantage.

Graeme Jones, in his last scheduled game as interim manager, made three changes to the side humbled by Chelsea in the previous match. In came Miguel Almiron, Jonjo Shelvey and Jacob Murphy, with Ryan Fraser, Sean Longstaff and Javier Manquillo dropping to the bench.

After a St James’ Park surrender against the European Champions last weekend, Jones tweaked things tactically, with the Magpies lining up in a more compact 5-4-1 with top scorer Callum Wilson the lone frontman.

However, it did little to stem the flow of negativity, as United, who dropped to the foot of the Premier League table pre-kick-off due to Norwich City's win at Brentford, fell behind with 24 minutes on the clock.

Ciaran Clark's needless nibble at Trossard in the area, then an inexplicable pull at a shirt, saw VAR called into action and a penalty awarded.

Trossard made no mistake from the spot.

The goal and a toothless attacking show, all too familiar with the Magpies this season, prompted a United chorus of “attack, attack, attack” from the 3,000 traveling Geordies in the away end.

Initially, things weren’t much better after the break as Tariq Lamptey prised open United’s backline down the left, with Matt Ritchie all at sea, but was denied by Karl Darlow. Adam Lallana skidded one opportunity from the edge of the area wide and Marc Cucurella turned wide when well-placed, as Darlow’s goal led a charmed life.

At the other end, it took until the 56th minute for Jones’s side to register a shot on target — a low Ritchie volley, which was easily caught by Robert Sanchez in the Brighton goal.

The chance did spark something into a previously lifeless United, though. A high pressing tactic began to reap rewards as Brighton were pushed back into their own half — and the push on to the front foot saw United equalize.

Allan Saint-Maximin played Ritchie away down the left and his deep cross caught Sanchez out, allowing Clark to nod back across goal and Hayden to crash home. As the game looked set to peter out, Sanchez felled Wilson as the striker looked set to round him and score into an empty net, and while referee David Coote missed the foul, VAR did not.

Late drama then ensued as having used all three subs already, Graham Potter was forced to field defender Lewis Dunk in goal for the five added minutes. Unfortunately the center-back was not tested and three points went begging for the still winless Magpies.

The point takes United off the bottom again, only on goal difference. And the late rally against an over-performing Brighton outfit will have given Howe food for thought. He will have been left in no doubt, though, hard work needs to be done at Newcastle, with a five point gap remaining between themselves and Premier League safety.

Jones thinks Howe, when confirmed, will be getting his hands on a positive group of players, despite the Magpies’ early season struggles.

“It’s easy to fracture in situations like this, but we as a group have not allowed it. The boys are together, and whoever comes in will inherit a healthy football club,” he said.

“We are all pulling in the same direction. We wanted to win, but you don’t achieve what we’ve achieved on the day without that. 

“You don’t achieve the response, and the manner of the response, if you’re not together. That’s so pleasing,” he added.

Jones, who is set to step back into a first-team coach role when Howe is given the reins, said the ex-Bournemouth boss had no input on the side's setup or preparation at Brighton.

“I’ve had no contact with him. Eddie’s a professional man. He will have realised that I was doing the game and I’d planned it, and he left me alone to focus on it.

“It was good to see him at the game, but we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome of that is still. I’ve just got on with things.”

Jones continued: “I’m pleased with the reaction. The plan was to win, we wanted to come here and win, but when you have a marginal decision against you, which we had with the VAR, then you feel sorry for yourself. 

“I spoke to the boys at half-time and said nobody’s going to help you – there’s only us who can help ourselves. The response in the second half is the most pleasing aspect of today’s performance.”

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