Newcastle Utd 1 Leeds Utd 1: Toon’s best home display so far spoiled by late, late lapse

Jamaal Lascelles rises to head home Newcastle's opening goal last night. Picture by Frank Reid
Jamaal Lascelles rises to head home Newcastle's opening goal last night. Picture by Frank Reid

This is how you play at St James’s Park.

The result wasn’t what Newcastle United. Or what they deserved.

But a couple more performances like this should ensure the club is in the Premier League next season.

Brighton and Huddersfield Town raised the stakes before last night’s match with victories earlier in the day.

And Rafa Benitez’s side raised their game for the visit of Leeds United, who claimed a point from a 1-1 draw thanks to a goal from Chris Wood five minutes into added time.

It was the only thing Wood, the Championship’s leading scorer, did all game.

The game, the closest Newcastle have had to a derby this season, itself felt like a cup tie.

The sell-out crowd, including 3,200 from Leeds, raised the decibels at St James’s Park for the first league meeting between the two sides at the stadium in more than 13 years.

And the occasion, and the game, didn’t disappoint. It was only the result that was a disappointment.

Newcastle, however, took time to settle into the game.

Alfonso Pedraza struck the bar with a 20-yard shot and Karl Darlow made a superb one-handed save to stop Kemar Roofe’s follow-up effort. Lascelles cleared the ball. Roofe, alarmingly, was unmarked.

Newcastle, looking to play balls into Mitrovic, took time to settle into the game, but by the half-hour mark they were making some headway in the visiting half of the pitch.

Mitrovic didn’t cover much ground, but there was pace and movement from Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran around him.

Gouffran struck the post with a shot from just outside the box and Chancel Mbemba forced a save from Green with a header as the half-time break approached.

Perez also had a chance as Newcastle pressed for a breakthrough before the interval.

The only thing missing was a goal.

Ritchie tested Green with a free-kick curled around the wall early in the second half.

Leeds made a series of fouls in and around the box, and both the visiting central defenders picked up yellow cards. But a goal still wouldn’t come, and Leeds were a danger on the break.

There was another let-off for the visiting team when referee Christopher Kavanagh failed to award a penalty after Luke Ayling brought down Mbemba in the box.

Newcastle came back time and again. They played with an intensity and intelligence which we haven’t often seen at St James’s Park this season.

And they finally got their reward in the 67th minute.

Gouffran took the ball on the right and swung in a ball for Mitrovic at the far post. The striker cleverly headed it to Lascelles, who nodded it into the net before Green could belatedly get to it.

There was a release of tension inside the stadium when Kavanagh confirmed the ball had crossed the line.

But Newcastle didn’t let up. They pressed for a second goal and Green denied Mitrovic.

Jack Colback replaced the outstanding Hayden, a player Newcastle badly missed during his spell on the sidelines, for the last 11 minutes.

Ritchie, caught by Charlie Taylor late in the game, was replaced by fit-again Yedlin for the last few minutes.

Diame came on in a final change, but the most significant entry on to the pitch in the final minutes was a Leeds fan who left the home end and went to greet Pontus Jansson on the pitch. The episode led to an even longer period of added time, during which an unmarked Wood, lost by Lascelles, volleyed past Darlow.

The defending for the goal infuriated Benitez, who had seen his team dominate Leeds.

But this, bar that late lapse, was the best Newcastle have played at home all season.

Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Ritchie (Yedlin 84), Shelvey, Hayden (Colback 79), Gouffran, Perez (Diame 90), Mitrovic. Subs not used: Hanley, Elliot, Atsu, Murphy. Booked: Shelvey, Colback. Goal: Lascelles 67

Leeds Utd: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi (Taylor 78), Bridcutt (Doukara 76), Phillips, Roofe, Hernandez, Pedraza (Sacko 61), Wood. Subs not used: O’Kane, Dallas, Vieira, Peacock-Farrell. Booked: Jansson, Bartley, Phillips. Goal: Wood 90

Att: 52,301. Ref: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).