Newcastle 0-0 Burnley: Dull stalemate satisfies both teams
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It was a case of pathetic fallacy at St James' Park as the bitterly cold conditions were matched with a display fitting of such weather as Newcastle United and Burnley simply cancelled each other out. 

The Clarets started the game with a purpose, passing the between the lines with a sense of freedom, but were lacking that incisive pass in the final third. 

Jay Rodriguez fashioned Burnley's best opening of the first period. The 30-year-old latched onto James Tarkowski's knock-down, bundled his way into the box, but saw his effort blocked by Federico Fernandez

Newcastle had the better of the chances, throughout the 90 minutes, but were unable to breach a determined defence and goalkeeper. 

Early on, Dwight Gayle raced onto a Jonjo Shelvey through ball but miss-controlled as he looked set to race clear. It was a warning call for a team that had kept three clean sheets in their last four Premier League matches. Gayle didn't get a better opportunity but Miguel Almiron came close shortly after. 

His team-mate initiated the chance, poking the ball through Ben Mee's legs but his shot was easily gathered by Nick Pope

Shelvey turned from potential creator to wannabe creator, chancing his luck from distance.

The midfielder's volley from the edge of the box ricocheted onto Tarkowski's body and away to safety; Shelvey appealed for a penalty but replays highlighted that the ball wasn't near the defender's arm. 

The second-half was more of the same from both teams. 

Burnley brought Chris Wood on for Vydra before the hour mark and the New Zealander's presence gave Burnley more of an outlet in the box.

Dwight McNeil fired in a delicious cross, looking for Wood, but the striker headed wide whilst under pressure. 

Steve Bruce's men were doing most of the antagonising as the game wore on. 

Gayle's acrobatic volley sailed well wide while substitute Allan Saint-Maximin forced Pope into a smart stop. 

But Matt Ritchie had a golden chance in the final moments. 

The winger had just returned from injury and momentarily saw himself in on goal. However, Ritchie was slow to find his feet and Tarkowski made a crucial block. 

It was huff and puff from both teams; nobody was able to knock the house down. That will have frustrated Bruce more than Sean Dyche but even the Newcastle boss can take heart from his team's performance. 

The Warm Down

Smoke and daggers

It was a game which promised goals when you looked at previous encounters but there was little evidence of sublime entertainment on display.

Burnley began promisingly but that progression quickly faded into retaining a shape and keeping solid. Dyche brought Wood on in a bid to change the tide; that substitution did seem to shift the momentum slightly for 10 minutes.

Ultimately, the safety blanket of a point was too much for the Clarets to try and gamble with. They trust in themselves to contain and keep a shape. Other than in the final few minutes, when Ritchie broke away, they never really looked too threatened. 

For Newcastle, there was a lot of promise without really looking too serious. 

Bruce's team have had goal-scoring issues but there were encouraging signs. 

Abandoning the back-three and shifting to a 4-4-2 was indicative of Bruce's desire to be more offensive. Get the ball forward quickly and cause problems; not too dissimilar to the Clarets. It wasn't a magic formula from the Newcastle head coach. 

Bruce isn't a scientist. He generally enjoys a good relationship with his players and doesn't drill their minds with tactical instructions. This was a return to classic Bruce and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Gayle and Almiron showed signs of promise. They didn't have many chances but their link-up play was good.

Newcastle will face less strict examinations in future weeks. This Burnley have 11 clean sheets this season. Only Liverpool have more. 

Potential for more

The return of Ritchie will be a big boost. The winger is a tireless runner but he also has genuine quality with his delivery. He was lively, if a little rusty, on his return to the team. 

There are lot of really promising players at Newcastle who just lack that final ingredient.

Gayle and Almiron have been prolific scorers in other leagues but have struggled in the Premier League.

Saint-Maximin has terrifying pace and trickery but his end-product flatters to deceive. 

Shelvey has the ability of a top-level midfielder but is bogged down by attitude problems and inconsistency. 

That's why they're at Newcastle. Lots of players with good attributes but with enough deficiencies to deny them a spot at a bigger club. There is enough ability to beat the drop but not enough to beat off the boardroom concerns. 

Ultimately, they have a solid defensive rearguard and the potential for goals at the other end. It wasn't quite clicking but the effort was present.

There was a lot of running, a lot of desire but a lack of oomph. To be fair, the only Premier League goal that Burnley have conceded in four matches was against Southampton. That goal was a piece of genius from Danny Ings; something out of nothing. 

Defensive assurances

It has come to the stage where Burnley give very little away. Phil Bardlsey and Charlie Taylor tuck themselves in; the four defenders are all relatively close to each other and it makes it difficult to wriggle into those promising positions. 

There is skill to a deep-block. Concentration must be high because, if it's not, the opponent will take full advantage. Burnley are very good at it because of the relationships that have been forged. Tarkowski, Mee and Pope are mainstays in the team and it means that they can maintain a shield with confidence. 

Often, Gayle and Almiron were picking up positions in-front of the defence. That's not where they wanted to be but it's where they were forced to be. Shelvey was the most likely protagonist for the hosts but it just wasn't to be. 

Vydra dilemma

The early Vydra substitution was perhaps symptomatic of Dyche's overall tactical thinking. Its all about patience. The link-up play between he and Rodriguez was promising. But it didn't really look like breaching the Newcastle defence too much. Hence, the Burnley manager made a quick second-half substitution. 

It was harsh on Vydra. The Czech star hadn't done much wrong. His manager doesn't usually make early substitutions. Nobody could really argue with the call but there is the argument that Vydra's excellent form had given Dyche a headache that he didn't necessarily want.

With Wood, the manager knows that Burnley can play a more simplistic style of play. Getting the ball forward quickly, hitting the target-man and minimising risk to the defence is part of the Burnley ethos. Vydra demands a more considered attacking approach. The fans demand it as well and that's one of the reasons why they clearly like him. He represents the potential for a style shift. 

Dyche has dabbled in a more possession-based style but it badly backfired. Burnley were hopelessly disjointed at the start of the 2018-19 season; their resurgence was heavily down to a return to basics. Still, with every passing season of survival, the demand for a more attractive style of football will never go away.

That being said, if Dyche can seamlessly switch between Vydra and Wood then he has a very good plan-B option at his disposal. The two players represent two very different styles of play; clever management of the players could give the Burnley manager an ace up his sleeve.  

The Teams

Newcastle: Dubravka 6; Manquillo 6, Fernandez 7, Lascelles 7, Rose 6; Ritchie 7, Hayden 6, Shelvey 7, Joelinton 6; Gayle 6, Almiron 7. 

Substitutes: Saint-Maximin 6. 

Burnley: Pope 6; Bardsley 7, Tarkowski 8, Mee 8, Taylor 7; Hendrick 6, Cork 6, Westwood 7, McNeil 7; Vydra 6, Rodriguez 6. 

Substitutes: Wood 6.

Man of the Match

Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle): The Newcastle man is a leader in the centre of defence. It wasn't his most challenging day but he was calm and confident in all that he did. Vydra, Rodriguez and Wood got very little change out of the Magpies. 

Ben Mee (Burnley): Not for the first time, Burnley's captain has illustrated his defensive nous. Newcastle tried to turn the screw but struggled to get any change from the Burnley defence with Mee at the heart of the team's organisation. 

What happens next?

The Clarets have extended their unbeaten run and will be feeling confident against an out-of-sorts Tottenham Hotspur

Newcastle are still in the FA Cup and welcome West Ham United on Wednesday night. They face Southampton next weekend, a game that Bruce would love to win to ease relegation fears. 

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