Despite Newcastle’s encouraging, if unexpected, win at Tottenham last Sunday, the crowd of 44,157 was the lowest for a Premier League fixture at St James’ Park in seven years. Those that turned up saw Gracia enjoy the sort of morale-boosting start his side so desperately needed in the wake of three straight defeats. After two minutes Tom Cleverley’s 20-yard shot was deflected into the path of Will Hughes, who delighted in beating Martin Dubravka from close range.
It felt like hard work for all concerned. Two functional teams struggling to find their rhythm, delivering a contest so littered with mistakes you had to remind yourself it was a Premier League match.
Gracia finally made a double substitution with 20 minutes to go, and it was not the change that the crowd had been calling for as Doucouré made way for Chalobah and Success replaced Hughes. I have to admit that even I booed the removal of Hughes who had been the best player on the pitch. Will left the field on the side opposite the dugout, so walked in front of the away fans and his name was sung with some gusto. Success showed his worth to us naysayers as he received a ball over the top and put in a low cross for Gray, but it was intercepted. Not satisfied with the changes so far, the away fans were chanting for Deulofeu to make an appearance.