Well, we didn’t lose.
That’s about as positive as anyone can be in regards to Newcastle’s 0-0 draw with Brighton.
While the result did bring about an end to a horrendous five-game run of defeats at home, it did little to offer any new hope ahead of the new calendar year.
The Magpies have now managed just two goals across their last six home games – both coming against Leicester – and rounded off the year with yet another poor performance.
The result means that we remain without a win at home since October still, and we haven’t found the back of the net in the five of the last six matches at St. James’ Park.
With an expectation of between limited to no funds going into a January transfer window where the side desperately needs strengthened it looks like Newcastle fans can once again look forward to a final-day relegation battle.
The game itself was a very dull affair, with few clear-cut chances falling to either side.
Make no mistake, Newcastle were dreadful once again in this game, but Brighton weren’t much better.
It is clear to see why Chris Hughton’s Seagulls side have failed to score in their last five away games when their best chance came from Anthony Knockaert firing an easy shot straight at Karl Darlow before the break.
There was little threat on the Newcastle goal, with Darlow forced to make just one notable save in the second half from a scramble at a corner.
The Magpies weren’t good in front of goal either, but Brighton should be very thankful to goalkeeper Mat Ryan for winning them the point with some key saves.
In the rare moments of positive, attacking football Newcastle mustered the Australian was on hand to deny the black and white faithful from witnessing an elusive home goal.
First, he acrobatically parried out a deflected Isaac Hayden shot that seemed almost destined to bobble and ricochet its way into the net, before producing his finest moment of the match to keep out Dwight Gayle.
A stunning cross from Christian Atsu, who was relatively quiet in the game, found the head of Gayle who flicked on a great header that looked like a certain goal but for a flailing, outstretched glove.
It was a marvelous stop, ever more frustrating given how desperately Newcastle need goals these days, and likely the highlight of the match – yes, it was that dull of a match.
The only other notable moments of the game were the two penalty claims for Newcastle.
The latter came via Mikel Merino, who showed some lovely technique and quick feet to dance into the Brighton box and seemed bundled into.
However, he pushed to carry on his run and so went down in stages, making it look softer than it probably was.
I’ve seen them given, and on replay you could argue it maybe was a penalty, but at the speed of play there is no surprise it was passed over by referee Anthony Taylor.
The other, earlier, incident is the one that really gets at me though, and not because I think Newcastle were unjustly ignored a penalty.
Quite the opposite.
In what seems like a once-a-match occurrence at the moment Gayle burst into the box, pushed out wide of the six-yard box and then, right as it looks like he’s set to pull the trigger, fell rather theatrically to the floor.
It was never a penalty, the replays showing it as a clear dive, and it was almost a carbon-copy of the incident against Man City just a few days ago when he was booked for simulation.
It was a dive, and the fact he seems determined to do it at least once a game now infuriates me.
I don’t like diving anyway, but especially not from your striker when he’s in a position to shoot.
Don’t anticipate the contact, just do your job and put your foot through the ball.
As a striker, do what you’re there to do and strike the ball. Don’t fall to the floor and give away possession because he’s never going to win a penalty like that.
Especially now where there is the independent panel that can ban players for winning penalties from diving, because if he does win one, there’s a good chance he’ll then be banned for two games – something Newcastle really don’t need given their already bare bones striking department.
It irritates the life out of me, and it’s another concern and issue that Newcastle really don’t need at a time that has seen them slip to 16th, right among their relegation rivals on points totals.
The upcoming games against Stoke and Swansea are going to be pivotal to Newcastle’s season, I believe.