Newcastle have displayed tremendous resolve throughout the season to see this squad to safety with six matches remaining. But of late, their grit, determination and concentration has begun to evaporate.
Facing Manchester City is always a daunting prospect, especially when the Sky Blues are riled up after a defeat, but how Newcastle succumbed to Pep Guardiola’s side was unacceptable regardless.
Facing an entirely different prospect against Watford, the Magpies began well, courtesy of an early Dwight Gayle strike. Nevertheless, two appalling errors of judgement caused this side to concede any points they may have hoped to collect. The Toon handed Troy Deeney two penalties on a silver platter, and the Watford skipper lapped up both chances.
After the match, skipper Jamaal Lascelles was rightly furious with his teammates and did not hold back when revealing his frustrations.
What did he say?
Speaking to NUFC TV, via Shields Gazette, Lascelles said: “In the Premier League you can’t be gifting goals like that.”
The captain added: “It was a lack of concentration that cost us. Every game we play we want to win. To be honest, I thought we’d bounced back from Man City, but mistakes cost us, and we just have to get it right for the next game.”
It would be unfair to suggest Newcastle haven’t tried in their past three matches, but they certainly haven’t displayed the same levels of concentration or discipline that the Toon showed immediately after the Premier League’s break. The Magpies have conceded nine goals in their last three games, having let in two during their first three post lockdown fixtures.
Manchester City can answer for some of the damage caused to Newcastle’s defence during the past trio of fixtures, but against Watford, the Magpies were their own worst enemy. Lascelles should be admired for fronting up to the Toon’s mistakes, instead of suggesting the penalties were soft, and called upon his teammates to sharpen their senses for the final fixtures of the campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton and Liverpool are a challenging last three matches, but this side could collect 50 points for the first time since Alan Pardew guided Newcastle to the Europa League. With survival secured that is an objective to aim for.
Bruce would need this side to collect seven more points and to do so, they will have to sharpen up significantly from Saturday’s performance.