Newcastle United 1 Burnley 0: Dan Black's thoughts on a damaging defeat away at relegation rivals

What was going to be a big month for Burnley has all of a sudden just become even bigger.

Nick Pope of Burnley is challenged by Fabian Schaer of Newcastle United in the build up to the first Newcastle United goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Nick Pope of Burnley is challenged by Fabian Schaer of Newcastle United in the build up to the first Newcastle United goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Prior to becoming the first victim of Newcastle United' s new regime, under Eddie Howe's watch, Johann Berg Gudmundsson had said: "This month is massive for us. There are games in which we should be confident of getting three points. This month is a big one for us."

Panic set in after Callum Wilson's decisive finish at St James's Park drew the Magpies level on points with the Clarets and Norwich City within the Premier League's bottom three.

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The result — which brought up the home side's first win and clean sheet of the campaign — expectedly switched the storyline from a solitary defeat in eight, or five games unbeaten, to one win in 14 fixtures, or a single success in 17, if you consider the broader spectrum.

Nick Pope of Burnley comes out to collect a cross and collides with Fabian Schar of Newcastle United and drops the ball, leading to the only goal of the gameduring the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It also placed greater importance on forthcoming games against Watford, Aston Villa, Everton and Leeds United, who, at the time of writing, were all within six points of Sean Dyche's side.

Burnley have only returned fewer points at this stage of the season on one previous occasion, in 2018-19, when having to juggle their domestic obligations with a maiden Europa League venture.

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The Clarets didn't hit double figures until match number 16 that term, when James Tarkowski's goal was the difference against Brighton, but, even before that, despite standing on nine points, they had more wins on the board at this stage two years ago.

Gudmundsson continued: "We know it [one win] is not good enough. The performances have been there, but it's all about the three points and it doesn't matter how they come."

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Newcastle player Jonjo Shelvey fouls Burnley player Johann Gudmundsson during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

And that's exactly how Newcastle came back from the dead to re-enter the fight for top flight survival. They've still got plenty of work to do — even though their post match celebrations might suggest otherwise — but victory, which came with a huge chunk of fortune, was a step in the right direction for the Toon Army.

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Nick Pope appeared to have taken Joe Willock's cross cleanly, with both hands glued to the ball, until an unfortunate collision with defender Fabian Schar saw the England international relinquish control.

Callum Wilson was the appreciative benefactor when reacting first to the spillage, setting himself with a couple of touches, and then lifting the ball into the roof of the net. That moment, five minutes before the break, papered over the cracks of a very ordinary performance from the hosts, but they had done what they needed to do.

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Burnley, meanwhile, continued to scramble around for inspiration, and drew a blank for the eighth time this season across all competitions, which included the goalless draw at Newcastle in the Carabao Cup.

Nick Pope of Burnley is challenged by Fabian Schaer of Newcastle United in the build up to the first Newcastle United goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Burnley at St. James Park on December 04, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
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For the second game on the bounce the Clarets mustered just one shot on target, with Maxwel Cornet's first half header from Dwight McNeil's delivery forcing Martin Dubravka to save.

Gudmundsson's deflected attempt had cannoned back off the outside of the post beforehand, Cornet had dragged another opening wide, substitute Matej Vydra fluffed his lines while Jay Rodriguez, who also featured from the bench, had a late finish ruled out for offside.

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Newcastle, though, had also offered very little in terms of an attacking threat. Pope's only other call of duty was to turn Miguel Almiron's effort past the post before flicking Jonjo Shelvey's attempt over the crossbar.

"We're not letting in as many goals, but we're not scoring many goals," Gudmundsson admitted. "It's just about getting that balance. We scored three against Crystal Palace, but then we let in three.

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"The balance is not quite there but it's heading in the right direction. We're working extremely hard as a team but that's just how football works sometimes."

It certainly needs recalibrating. When they have scored goals, they have also looked porous at the back, scoring twice at Leicester and Southampton, only to claim a point, and three times at home in the draw with Crystal Palace.

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But when keeping things tighter at the back, they've failed to threaten at the other end. The trip to Newcastle was the latest evidence of that, the stalemate with Wolves before it had suggested something similar, as had close encounters with the likes of Arsenal and the Canaries.

Cornet's anticipated absence won't help matters on that front. Burnley's leading scorer was withdrawn with a thigh strain before the home side had got their noses in front.

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The Ivory Coast international's movement off the front had influenced the make-up of proceedings in the North East, though it was concerning that his departure had left the visitors so bereft of creativity or invention.

If that final hour is anything to go by, the Clarets could find themselves in a bit of bother when the Ivorian reports for international duty in the coming weeks.

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Cornet is expected to team up with the Elephants for January's Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Ivory Coast are in Group E of the 24-team tournament alongside holders Algeria, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea.

"He's a threat and he offers us something different in the way that he plays, with his movement patterns and he sees things slightly differently," said Dyche, who may have to go back to the drawing board when his prized asset disembarks.