Vurnon Anita has challenged his Newcastle team-mates to become more ruthless if the Magpies are to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle created more than enough chances to beat Stoke at St James’ Park on Saturday, but were repeatedly thwarted by the excellence of keeper Jack Butland and on the one occasion on which he was beaten, the woodwork, as they ultimately had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Both head coach Steve McClaren and his players were able to take plenty of positives six days after everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in their derby defeat at Sunderland, but there is room for improvement in the final third.
Anita told nufcTV: “We played very good football, created a lot of chances and now we need to work on the finishing.
“We had to respond and respond with good football, a lot of chances, and at the back, we did very well and kept a clean sheet.
“We need to keep on working from the back and don’t concede goals. Today, we did that well, but unfortunately we didn’t score.”
Butland had his stroke of good fortune with 28 minutes gone when Aleksandar Mitrovic glanced Moussa Sissoko’s cross past him, but saw the ball come back off the inside of the far post.
However, what followed was all his own work as he produced fine second half saves to deny Sissoko twice, Ayoze Perez and at the death, substitute Jamaal Lascelles.
Asked if he had seen a better goalkeeping performance this season, Anita said: “Not with so many chances. We have played a couple of good games and today was a good game for us. Unfortunately. we didn’t score one of the chances.”
Stoke gave as good as they got for long periods and had a gilt-edged chance of their own when Jonathan Walters powered a header towards goal from Marko Arnautovic’s 52nd minute cross and saw keeper Rob Elliot make a save of which Butland would have been proud.
Manager Mark Hughes was satisfied with a point after admitting the midweek Capital One Cup victory over Chelsea and the Rugby World Cup had conspired against his team.
He said: “Maybe our exertions in midweek just took the edge off our play. The pitch was a little bit softer than we have been used – I don’t know whether they kept the grass a little bit longer because of the rugby games here. It was a slow pitch and I think that affected our play as well.
“But on the day, it’s a good away point for us. We are decent away from home, picking up lots of points, so we are pleased with that. We need to address our home form, which to a certain extent, we did against Chelsea in the cup, so we hope that’s going to continue.
“We have got them again next week, so it’s a big game for us, but a good challenge once again.”
Meanwhile, McClaren could consider a foray into the emergency loan market after revealing Elliot had suffered a recurrence of a thigh injury and with Tim Krul and Karl Darlow also on the casualty list, he has only 18-year-old Freddie Woodman at his disposal.