Magpies find that Hassell is too much to handle
Barnsley 2 Newcastle United 2
Sunday 13 December 2009
There are two schools of thought to explain the stranglehold Newcastle United exert on the Championship, one which sees them enjoy an eight-point advantage at the top despite being denied an eighth consecutive victory by a stirring Barnsley comeback capped by Bobby Hassell's headed late equaliser.
Credit can be given to Chris Hughton and his squad for the way they have halted the slide in the wake of last season's abject relegation. Conversely, it is possible to lament the standard of the rest of a division that has allowed a club which exited the top flight in turmoil to enjoy unchallenged hegemony.
Whatever your view, one thing not in doubt is that this will be a one-season stop-off in the second tier. They are already printing the tee-shirts, 'Newcastle's Premier League return tour – 23 venues only, ends in May'.
For more than half the game Barnsley looked like falling into the guise of many of their opponents this season – tidy, up for the battle but lacking in quality at the sharp end. Yet the way they twice came from behind displayed the strides they're making under Mark Robins. "I stressed to the players to believe in themselves," said the manager whose side would have been celebrating victory over all of yesterday morning's top three this season had Ryan Shotton's effort not been hacked off the line by Jose Enrique or if Andy Gray had not shot wide after Emil Hallfredsson's first goal of the season.
It took just six minutes for Newcastle to exert control, Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan combining for the latter to hold off two challenges to poke his 10th goal of the season past Luke Steele. The advantage should have been quadrupled by the interval but wastefulness in front of goal allowed Hallfredsson to crash in the first equaliser off the underside of the bar soon after the restart as Barnsley grew in confidence. Marlon Harewood restored the lead 12 minutes from the end.
"We had to battle for everything," Hughton admitted. "I'm not happy with a point. When you're 2-1 up with a few minutes left you should hold out for the result."
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