Time is running out for Newcastle.
A performance full of promise, encouragement and hope goes against the very nature of survival. The time for hope was at the beginning of the season. Newcastle are at the mercy of 90 minutes each week and their points-per-game rate is currently sending them into the Championship.
The hush around St. James’ Park was a different kind to the one under Steve Bruce. Newcastle fans were resigned to their misery back then. It is the hope which is currently killing them.
That hope is rooted in the reality that, as Newcastle’s overall performances have improved, the part at the top of the pitch hasn’t.
Callum Wilson’s injury prompted Eddie Howe into making a move for Burnley forward Chris Wood earlier this week. Having barely set foot in the door, he was thrust into the side this afternoon in search of a debut goal.
The Magpies created chances aplenty in the first half before eventually finding the breakthrough from Allan Saint-Maximin after the interval. Discouraged by their first half profligacy, Newcastle were spooked and sat on their slender 1-0 advantage, as Joao Pedro made them pay in ruthless fashion just two minutes from time.
In that regard, Chris Wood’s first assignment as Newcastle’s talisman failed. The margin for error for the Magpies is narrowing each passing week and Howe cannot afford currency which is not quick-fixes.
The New Zealand international cut a slightly awkward figure, not quite dominating the penalty box in the way Wilson typically does.
It meant that for all of Newcastle’s endeavour in the first half, with Kieran Trippier and Ryan Fraser throwing in crosses as if they were going out of fashion, they couldn’t quite bundle the ball over the line. Joelinton got on the end of a few, Fabian Schar did likewise. Their No.9 was conspicious by his absence.
Indeed, Wood’s most threatening chance of the game was a header which he looped onto the roof of the net while backpedalling.
The Magpies faithful will hope the initial skepticism surrounding the signing does not materialise. Wood has boasted a promising record in recent years, but his tally for Burnley this season represented a marked drop-off.
Without a goal since November, Wood has found the net just three times this season. The signing seems more based on weakening a relegation rival than it does supplying Howe with the ammunition to offset the loss of his talisman.
It leaves the New Zealander facing an uphill struggle, with the next ten days set to dictate the remainder of Howe’s transfer policy. Were Newcastle to fail to take points from fixtures against Leeds and Everton, the Magpies boss will be required to dip back into the market for a goalscoring outlet.
The links with Atalanta full back Robin Goesens are wishful thinking, but Newcastle require short-term fixes at the top end of the pitch.
Signed to be exactly that, Wood failed to help Newcastle capitalise on their momentum in a relegation six pointer. They cannot afford many more what-ifs.