Steve Bruce went into the game under increasing pressure following a dire run of six games without a win in all competitions and just four goals scored during that period. If ever a game was needed for them to show some attacking intent it was this one – instead, they delivered the opposite.
The Magpies looked in trouble from the moment the team-sheet was delivered, with Bruce sticking with the 5-4-1 setup and opting for the conservative options of Jeff Hendrick, Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff in midfield, leaving only Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson as genuine attacking threats.
In the end, Fraser was sent off for two silly fouls which both earned yellow cards. That made the task very difficult for the Magpies, but even before that Sheffield United had taken complete control of the game in defiance of their form throughout the season so far.
The defeat leave Newcastle still eight points clear of the drop zone, but Fulham have two games in hand and are unbeaten in their last four matches in the division (premierleague.com). The stats that were being displayed earlier on in the campaign are now catching up with Bruce’s side.
Despite the defeat, Bruce is thought not to be under any real pressure in terms of his job unless Newcastle drop into the bottom three. However, many fans have irrevocably turned on him, and if things do not pick up soon, a real relegation fight could be on the cards.
Here is how we rated Newcastle players from the defeat at Sheffield United in what was a difficult evening for everyone in the visitors’ squad…
Karl Darlow – 7
Newcastle have been heavily reliant on the brilliant form of Darlow throughout the campaign and the ‘keeper once again kept them in the game, making three important saves.
He could do nothing really to prevent the goal after a well-taken Billy Sharp penalty.
DeAndre Yedlin – 3
Yedlin was meant to be the one getting forward and supplying the attacking width down the right-hand side but he was instead camped back in his own with the Magpies relinquishing possession.
On the rare occasions he could get forward, he did nothing in the final third.
Federico Fernandez – 6
For most of the game, Fernandez was a candidate for Newcastle’s best performer on a grim night with some excellent interventions and clearances, especially in the first half.
However, he gave away the penalty which ultimately proved costly.
Fabian Schar – 4
Schar was solid enough in the first half but he completely lost his composure in the second after being fouled by Sharp, which saw the game broken down with niggly fouls and prevented any rhythm from being created in pursuit of an equaliser.
Ciaran Clark – 6
Alongside Darlow, Clark was arguably the best performer on the night for the Magpies and he made a number of timely interventions and also kept his head for the full 90 minutes.
Paul Dummett – 4
Dummett probably should not have even been in the team from the start considering he has only just returned from injury and played on Saturday.
He looked well off the pace and lacks the ability to get forward which is needed in a wing-back role.
Sean Longstaff – 4
Completely ineffective like the rest of the Magpies midfield, gave away the ball 10 times and was unable to help create anything going forward whilst not doing enough at times to protect the defence.
Isaac Hayden – 4
Again had very little impression on the game in possession and was also guilty of making a couple of poor fouls when staying on his feet would have been the better option.
Jeff Hendrick – 4
Hendrick has struggled for most of his time at Newcastle so far and this was another difficult evening for him.
Ineffective on the ball and did not do enough defensively. Questions will be asked over how he was picked from the start.
Ryan Fraser – 3
Put simply, Fraser let the team down with two silly fouls, especially the second yellow.
Callum Wilson – 4
Completely isolated throughout the game and devoid of service at times but he also did not do enough with a couple of headed chances which came his way.