Though this was an encounter that will be immediately placed into a bargain bin of games never to be rewatched, it was a match that Villa unexpectedly found themselves ahead in the 86th minute.
The fact that from there we failed to see the game out, succumbing to a dreadful 94th-minute equaliser, epitomises the plateau in form and fortune of late.
It was another struggle to watch, with the scrappy encounter offering little for either set of supporters to get excited about, let alone any poor neutrals who might have stumbled upon Friday night’s offering.
Arguably the contest only came to life in the final minutes after Watkins’ deflected opener.
Villa’s biggest scare had come minutes earlier, with Newcastle substitute Murphy curling an effort onto the cross-bar having done all of the hard work in wrong-footing the Villa defence.
There were also instances where we should have put the fixture beyond the hosts reach as they desperately chased the game. El Ghazi, on for the injured Traore, fired straight at the goalkeeper when released by Barkley.
Villa fluffed their lines again following a swift counter-attack; McGinn opting to release the ball to Watkins in an offside position with his subsequent effort well saved (albeit likely disallowed if he had scored). The Scottish international’s decision not to spray a pass onto the bursting runs of either Barkley or El Ghazi will forever remain a mystery.
The hammer blow came as a result of not taking the few chances we crafted and poor game management at the death.
If you want to go granular then you circle the ill-thought out lay off by El Ghazi, a fatigued attempt to prevent the cross by McGinn and Luiz being beaten by Lascelles to fire a header beyond the helpless Martinez.
After a war of attrition up to any including the 85th minute goal, it felt like a smash and grab was on the cards. Indeed, Newcastle’s equaliser made Villa only the 3rd team in Premier League history not to secure all 3 points having took the lead at such a late stage.Embed from Getty Images
As Dean Smith now embarks upon a decidedly trickier set of fixtures, he will have to reflect upon the fact that we’ve taken 9 points (from 24 available) against Sheffield United, Newcastle, Burnley and Brighton.
Though the improvement upon last season is like night and day, there can be no denying that our dangerous and rampant offensive style of play has dissipated.
We’ve become too dependent upon our generally excellent defence whilst this threat has evaporated. The fact we’ve taken just 15 points (from 39 available) since New Year serves only to illustrate the point.
Few might remember this encounter in the weeks and months ahead, but there is much that Villa need to take from it going forward.
Up next; Spurs at Villa Park (Sunday 21st March – Kick Off 7:30pm – GMT)
Newcastle Utd 1-1 Aston Villa
Match Report & Player Ratings – Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa – Watkins’ 85th-minute goal not enough as Lascelles snatches late equaliser. http://gty.im/1306735412