Newcastle 2-1 Brighton: Eddie Howe’s Magpies move seven points clear of the relegation zone as they cling on for another victory at St James’ Park after Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar’s early strikes
- Newcastle snatched a quickfire lead with two goals with the opening 15 minutes
- Ryan Fraser opened the scoring after planting a rebound off the post into goal
- Fabian Schar’s header doubled the home side’s lead just two minutes later
- But an unmarked Lewis Dunk headed home to claw one back for the visitors
They say that playing poorly and winning is a good sign. Equally, it should be alarming if you play well and lose. Meet Newcastle and Brighton.
For Eddie Howe’s Magpies this was a performance to forget but another afternoon to remember, a fifth victory in six matches to move seven points clear of the bottom three.
His opposite number Graham Potter can take comfort from a display that deserved more, but the uncomfortable truth is a fourth straight defeat.
Newcastle stormed to a 2-1 win over Brighton as two quickfire goals in the first 15 minutes
Ryan Fraser opened the scoring for the Magpies after he planted a rebound in the net
Fabian Schar’s header from a Newcastle free kick doubled their lead just two minutes later
The visitors dominated the opening 12 minutes. They did what Brighton can often do – passed, moved, created chances, failed to score. Come the 14th minute they were 2-0 down.
Potter had made four changes – Yves Bissouma and top scorer Neal Maupay benched, much to the surprise of supporters – but the head coach was left slumped in the dugout and staring at his shoes in search of answers. It was certainly a long walk back from here.
Newcastle, by contrast, had started with little tempo and even less territory. It was arguably the worst period of their post-Christmas unbeaten run. Not that it mattered.
Brighton boss Graham Potter was left slumped in the dugout as his side went 2-0 down
Howe has instilled enough savvy to navigate such bumps and, one break and one set-piece later, they had a barely-deserved cushion.
Brighton left back Marc Cucurella was key to the opening goal, not that he wanted to be. The Spaniard gave the ball away high up the field, was out-paced by Jacob Murphy in trying to recover and, when the Newcastle winger hit the post, he failed to read the rebound and Ryan Fraser slammed in from six yards.
As much as Newcastle’s turnaround has been aided by January signings, it is the transformation in the likes of Fraser that has been Howe’s greatest achievement. The winger had one good game in 13 months under Steve Bruce – and that was playing for Scotland.
Fraser – shortlisted for February’s Player of the Month prize – soon added an assist to his goal when Fabian Schar beat Brighton’s zonal marking to connect with his free-kick and flash home a header from eight yards.
An unmarked Lewis Dunk headed home to claw one back for Brighton in the second half
Still, though, Brighton remained the better team. They scored on 55 minutes when Lewis Dunk strode unopposed onto a corner and headed in from close range.
But never were you convinced that Potter’s side would emerge with anything more than a valiant defeat. So it proved.
Newcastle played like this in the same fixture last season and lost 3-0. That is the difference under Howe. It is why they can now just about start planning for next season in the Premier League.