Newcastle United returned to winning ways thanks to a Callum Wilson penalty in a scrappy encounter with Brentford at St. James' Park on Saturday evening.
The visiting Bees, who lined up in a 5-3-2 formation and employed pretty direct tactics, made life difficult for Eddie Howe's side from the first whistle but left empty-handed due to a mad five minutes from goalkeeper Mark Flekken around the hour mark.
It had been an even affair until that point, with the Magpies struggling badly to create clear opportunities in the first half but dealing well with Brentford's relentless long ball game and the powerful running of Bryan Mbuemo and Yoane Wissa in the visiting attack.
Indeed, Nick Pope made the best save of the opening period, standing tall to deny right wing-back Aaron Hickey from the right corner of the six-yard box, though Dan Burn's late lunge deserved some of the credit for taking a lot of the pace off the strike.
At the other end, Newcastle's best first-half opening fell to Bruno Guimarães following a Kieran Trippier corner from the right. Sven Botman did well to knock the delivery to the unmarked Brazilian, who headed straight at the feet of Flekken from just two yards out.
Otherwise, Wilson had a couple of headed half-chances, but the Magpies headed into the break with Howe and his staff looking frustrated at what he'd seen from their much-changed starting XI.
Things improved after the interval, though, with Newcastle attacking the Gallowgate End with renewed purpose. The pressure had been building on the visitors for a while when the first major moment of the game came, Wilson seeing a goal very harshly chalked off for a supposed foul on the Bees' flapping Dutch goalkeeper.
The striker, restored to the team in place of Alexander Isak didn't have to wait much longer for another chance courtesy of Flekken, thankfully, with a soft decision this time going Newcastle's way. Hickey tried to cushion a five-yard pass back to his goalkeeper under pressure from Anthony Gordon but made a hash of it, allowing our number 10 to steal in.
Flekken remained committed to his clearance and clumsily brought the winger down right on the touchline, giving Wilson the chance to notch from 12 yards. There was never any doubt from that point, with our number nine slotting a beautiful spot kick beyond Flekken's reach into the top-right corner.
There was still time for Newcastle to be awarded another penalty that was overturned by referee Craig Pawson after an intervention from VAR, but Brentford barely mustered a reaction even when given nine minutes of stoppage time to find an equaliser.
Ultimately the result was all that mattered here, but the game made for painful viewing at times. While Brentford don't play pretty football, Newcastle didn't do enough to seize the initiative and control the game, meaning clear chances were at a premium throughout.
Sky Sports have all of the crucial moments available on their YouTube channel. How Wilson's goal was disallowed, we'll never understand:
Trippier was the best player on the pitch, putting in an almost flawless performance at right-back. He was ably supported by Fabian Schär and the returning Botman, who dealt with the pace and power of Mbuemo and Wissa admirably. Burn put in a solid shift at left-back and Pope had very little to do, but this was his most assured display of the season to date.
The midfield wasn't great again, unfortunately, with Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson largely bypassed by Brentford's tactics when getting their first starts of the season in place of the injured Sandro Tonali (who still made the bench) and Joelinton. Bruno did try and get on the ball as much as possible, but his radar was off and he was abysmal defensively.
Gordon was again the pick of the wingers with his directness and work rate, winning the crucial penalty due to sheer effort and speed. Harvey Barnes lacked the intensity of his teammate but did have some decent moments in possession, while Wilson scored a goal, had one harshly chalked off, and led the line admirably in very difficult circumstances.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Pope 7; Trippier 9, Schär 8, Botman 8, Burn 7; Longstaff 6, Guimarães 5, Anderson 6; Gordon 7, Wilson 8, Barnes 6 (Almirón 5)
Our head coach spoke to NUFC TV's work experience kid straight after the final whistle, with his standout comments being:
"We needed to win. The players knew that and we knew that. It was a difficult, difficult game. It was physical, with lots of set plays, they defended very deep and gave minimal space for us to play through. But we did well enough. We hung in there during the first half and second half I thought we played a lot better and deserved to win the game.
He (Wilson) led the line very well. He was physically excellent and a real handful for them. As always, with Callum, he presses well, and he tactically understands what we need him to do. He was probably frustrated with the lack of goalmouth action but I thought that summed the game up. It was a tight encounter between two teams who nullified each other's threats. We improved in the second half and I thought we had the best of the second period.
I think we needed a clean sheet after Brighton, where we didn't defend well. Today we returned to our normal solid selves. It was a gritty display from the midfield, I thought we congested the middle of the park and were good in duals. The back four defended very well, there were some big headers, especially late in the game, from our defenders and we dealt with set plays, which is probably their biggest threat, extremely well.
We're really looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead of us in the Champions League. Of course, it's a different competition. We're going to be stretched and pulled and challenged but hopefully, we'll grow from it and it'll make us a better team. But we know we'll be backed and supported by everyone that comes, and hopefully, it will be a great experience for everybody."
Our matchwinner also gave some nice comments to the official site after drawing level with Les Ferdinand in the club's all-time Premier League top scorer list:
"It (the penalty) was just about staying composed. I cleared my studs to make sure there was no grass in there that could make me slip. And then it's just about having that belief. Believing in the process, believing in your technique.
As a striker, as someone who does take the penalties, you practice it. Yesterday I practised it three times and put it in exactly the same spot, so today it was just a case of telling myself 'You've done it three times in a row yesterday, you've only got to do it once today'. Nowadays goalkeepers do their research, he was more than likely going to dive the right way, so it was just about making sure it was a good height to not let him have a chance of saving it.
I usually keep my targets to myself but I haven't been quiet about the fact that I would like to get into the '100 Club' (100 Premier League goals). I think it's 17 or 18 I need now to get there and that's my aim and ambition for this season.
It's been a long time coming, two ACL injuries, and a lot of setbacks along the way mean I feel like I should've been there a long time ago but, nevertheless, you deal with the circumstances that are dealt your way and make sure when you get an opportunity to get yourself in there, which is looking more likely now, you try and do that."
Oh, nothing major, just a little jaunt to Italy for our opening UEFA Champions League group game with AC Milan on Tuesday evening. That one's a 5.45 p.m. BST kick-off and will be broadcast on TNT Sports in the UK and Ireland.
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