It was very much a similar tale of misery and woe for the travelling Toon Army led by Manager Steve McClaren. Their performance away at the Britannia Stadium against a solid and compact Stoke City encapsulated their troubles away from home, but more worryingly, their position in the Premier League.
After 18 days away at Spain in La Manga, the working boot camp suggested by McClaren to improve the squad’s performances for their remaining matches had seemed like a futile attempt to rekindle a dying team whose flame had long ago been extinguished. This match only seemed to increase the friction for the travelling fans and served to magnify the faults in a team that look destined for Championship football next season.
With Jonjo Shelvey as the Magpies new captain, this game could have presented a new era for Newcastle under McClaren, but despite a change in captain, the lacklustre performances had remained the same.
Easily Newcastle’s most notable obvious failure in this match was their inability of movement on and off the ball. Newcastle’s attacking players didn’t create the space needed to work Stoke's back line and the defence didn’t press quickly enough to effectively challenge Stoke's danger duo of Marko Arnautović and Xherdan Shaqiri.
The lack of movement conveyed a lack of passion towards the game and denied the minute prospect of victory, or at least a good performance in front of the fans that have been subject to the dire performances of Newcastle’s last set of fixtures.
Lone striker Aleksandar Mitrović was silenced and provided little impetus for the direction of the game as Stoke's defensive partnership of Philipp Wollscheid and Erik Pieters plagued the Newcastle man all game. Star man Georginio Wijnaldum failed to penetrate Stoke's back line and failed to live up the hype usually associated with his performances whilst Shelvey was rendered useless as the strong winds at the Britannia meant he could not provide the long balls that has been the staple of his play during his brief spell at Newcastle.
Newcastle just couldn’t come to grips to Stoke who succeeded to dominate possession. The inevitability of a Stoke goal came late in the second half as Shaqiri dribbled his way around Jamaal Lascelles and curled the ball past Rob Elliot who could only look on in disbelief as the ball sailed past him to condemn Newcastle to their 17th away defeat.
The only consolation for Newcastle was Seydou Doumbia’s last minute attempt in the inside of the box that forced Jack Butland into producing his finest and first real save of the match.
Only Aston Villa have won fewer points away from home in the Premier League this season (6) than Newcastle who have only managed a disappointing seven.
Sack or Survival - McClaren
The Newcastle manager has once more come under the spotlight for his questionable tactical decisions in the match.
The scrutiny from fans at the removal of Ayoze Perez from the squad for Yoan Gouffran confused the Newcastle faithful. Whereas the decision to finally add him to game with new striker Doumbia in the last ten minutes, seemed like a hapless trial of tactics as the game had long gone.
McClaren must surely be the reason behind Newcastle's woes as his past does nothing to compensate his sides performances this season. Though the move to sack the Newcastle man may be something many Newcastle fans dream of, the reality may prove harder to comprehend in this late stage of the season. Either McClaren defies the odds and rescues his team from the restraints of the relegation zone or he will sink further than his team once the Championship beckons the Tyneside club.
The next match against Bournemouth will be crucial for McClaren and will be one he will be hoping to make ammends for his teams problems at Stoke.
So, what now for Newcastle United?
If Newcastle are to stay in the Premier League then immediate and drastic reform must take place before the match against Bournemouth on Saturday. Newcastle exhibited the kind of mentality that will not be satisfactory in the Premier League and which will surely thrust them into the lower tier of English football.
Newcastle United must make use of the fanatical supporters who this season will be the most important resource for the team. With some key fixtures at home fast approaching, St. James' Park must rapidly become a fortress if Newcastle are to survive for next season as it looks as if the away form will not improve any time soon.