Rafa Benitez is a hard-working coach on the touch-line and he is fully involved in the game as he attempts to work out what the other side is doing and tries to adjust the Newcastle team accordingly.
And in his first two games in charge – even though we have taken only one point from the two games – we have nevertheless seen Newcastle in the ascendancy in the second half in both games – first of all at Leicester where the Foxes just about held on for the win.
And today against Sunderland we equalized through a great Aleksandar Mitrovic header following very good play from Gini Wijnaldum down the right wing and Sunderland in the end hung on for the draw.
Rafa Benitez – on the touchline this afternoon
Rafa wasn’t too pleased with the first half showing again today when we gave away another poor goal, but he was calm in the dressing room at half time.
This is what he said after the game:
“I couldn’t show them I was really angry at halftime – it was more about managing the situation,” “We weren’t doing the best first half, we had some chances and they had some chances, and then we conceded at the end.”
“I had to give them confidence and I had to give them an idea of how to play, how to deal with the situation in the second half, and I think that they did really well,”
“I said before that Mitrovic has the potential,” “We have to help him a little bit with better crosses, better deliveries and support and get closer to him, but he will score goals if we can do that.”
“The way that we were playing the second half, was really pleasing, and hopefully we can keep this momentum for the next games,”
“It was really important for everyone here, from the first fan to the last, people in the dressing room – everybody needed a goal like that and a reaction like that.”
“I think we can stay up. We have to keep working, I believe they can play better and from what I have seen today in the second half, they can do well.”
The league table doesn’t look too great for us at the moment and we are 4 points behind where we were after 30 games played then – when Alan Shearer came in as the manager on April 1st, 2009 and he got 5 points in those last 8 games.
So for Newcastle to equal that points total of 34 seven years ago we need 9 points from the final eight games – but to stay up we need more than that.
Since the beginning of February we have taken only 4 points from seven games after investing another £29M in the transfer market, but only Shelvey and Townsend played today and Henri Saivet was on the bench and Doumbia didn’t even make the bench – with Riviere being preferred.
And in order to avoid the drop we will need to start winning games very soon, and a good time to start that is at Norwich on April 2nd where a win would see us draw level with them on points with a game in hand.
Rafa and his coaching team will have almost two weeks to prepare the team for that next important fixture.
But we have to cut out the sloppiness in defense that gave the Black Cats their goal just before half time today through Jermain Defoe – and we are indebted to two or three great saves from goalkeeper Rob Elliot to keep us in the game.
But the lads deserve great credit for fighting their way back for a point today, and the home crowd were simply magnificent in their complete support of the team.
There is still hope we can avoid the drop, as Rafa’s ideas are picked up by the team and executed fully in each of the eight remaining games of the season.
But we could need five wins to survive.