Monday evening’s lone Championship fixture saw Newcastle return to the table’s summit with a 2-0 home victory over Aston Villa.
The visiting side have been struggling all season. Despite being relegated with Newcastle last year they are nearer the basement of the division; with around half of their opponent’s current point tally.
Here are three things we learnt from a tense 90 minutes…
Aston Villa can’t defend corners
Steve Bruce’s team had comfortably matched Rafael Benitez’s men throughout a dull first half. Before scoring in the 42nd minute Newcastle hadn’t mustered a shot on target.
Villa hadn’t tested Darlow either, but were close to reaching half-time level, and had increased frustration levels inside an anxious St James’ park.
The visitors’ promising performance was thrown away when switching off before a corner, which Matt Ritchie took short. Jonjo Shelvey returned the ball to Ritchie, who launched it into the area. Aleksandar Mitrovic kept the attack alive between two failed clearances from Mile Jedinak, before Yoan Gouffran stabbed the ball home.
The 2nd goal was another example of how not to defend set pieces. Newcastle played a corner towards the near post, which Henri Lansbury cleared for a second corner. Somehow Shelvey was allowed to play an almost identical corner, without Villa defenders reacting. Captain Jamaal Lascelles sent the ball towards goal and, what should have been a routine block on the post by Lansbury, became a comical own-goal off the woodwork.