Following Newcastle’s bitterly mediocre stalemate against Aston Villa, Steve Bruce must view Brighton’s clash with Newcastle as a de facto cup final.
Why is this?
The last-gasp draw against Aston Villa is limited in its impact on Newcastle’s bid to remain in the upper echelon of English football.
Anxieties over the tenableness of the status of Newcastle in the league is not unwarranted. They are teetering precariously above the drop zone by a mere handful of points, albeit with a game in hand over their nearest relegation-zone rivals Fulham.
With Brighton having secured a vital trio of points with a 2-1 win over Southampton, a win for either side could be pivotal for each side’s bid to stay up.
Both sides find themselves nervously keeping an eye on results elsewhere, knowing that an unfavourable result for the club could infringe upon the fine margin between 17th-placed relief and 18th-placed demise.
As a result, the clash with Brighton causes the phrase ‘six-pointer’ to come to mind.
A win over Brighton would take Newcastle to 16th place on 31 points, swapping table positions with the Seagulls.
Should Fulham fail to garner extra points at the same game-week, Newcastle will have an increasing cushion of 5 points between themselves and the drop.
It is all-too apparent that with plenty of football still to be played, that cushion may not be enough to secure survival in the end.
Fulham take on Newcastle on the final day, but fans will be praying that survival is secured by that point. Let the Brighton game be pivotal – not the visit to Craven Cottage.