Steve McClaren was left to bemoan a glaring miss by Siem de Jong as Newcastle failed to kill off bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa and were made to pay for it.
The Magpies were leading courtesy of Fabricio Coloccini’s first-half strike when the unmarked De Jong was picked out beyond the far post by Georginio Wijnaldum’s 57th-minute cross, but contrived to miss the target with the goal at his mercy.
Four minutes later, Jordan Ayew blasted home the equaliser which secured a 1-1 draw and just Villa’s fourth Premier League point since the opening day of the season, in the process denying their hosts a third successive win.
McClaren said: “I have just seen it again – I have seen him thousands of times just put that in. I don’t know, he was maybe unsighted – I think the defender just got across – but it was kind of the defining moment.
“Two minutes later, they go and equalise and then we have a bad 10-minute spell. But then I thought we recovered well from that and really went for the game at the end and again had two good chances with Gini [Wijnaldum] and Ayoze [Perez].
“So it’s frustration, for definite, but the players – we should win that game with the chances. But that’s football and sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.”
It proved to be a game of two halves on a sodden St James’ Park pitch with Newcastle dominating the opening 45 minutes and taking the lead seven minutes before the break through Coloccini’s first goal in more than 13 months.
However, the introduction of substitute Rudy Gestede allowed the visitors to take a more direct approach and they got their reward when Ayew struck from distance with both sides passing up good opportunities to win the game in an eventful conclusion.
Villa remain 10 points adrift of the Magpies, who currently occupy the final safe place in the league table having slipped from 15th to 17th on a day which saw both Bournemouth and Norwich win away from home, although head coach McClaren has been buoyed by a return of seven points from the last nine on offer.
He said: “I must say from where we were to where we are finishing at Christmas, it’s a lot healthier and the key thing is the attitude of the players.
“They are staying in the game, they are fighting for 95 minutes, they are finishing games strong – they did last week and won the game there, and nearly did it this week. But we’ll take seven from nine and move on.”