It was not quite a matadorial entrance for Joselu, a 64th minute substitution by Rafa Benitez. There was no great outpouring of love for the Spanish forward at St James’ Park. For reasons that at times remain bewildering, the huge affection received by Aleksandar Mitrovic (currently injured) rarely comes his way. For that his has been a contentious inclusion.
Within four minutes of coming on, the £5m signing from Stoke had scored a huge goal for his club. For that he was celebrated like a hero. That equalising strike, largely self-created after an Ayoze Perez shot was deflected into his path, immediately felt huge.
Newcastle’s fight to stay in the Premier League could not have afforded a defeat to bottom club Swansea. He ran to the corner flag in celebration when he cancelled out Jordan Ayew’s headed goal, which had come eight minutes earlier.
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Right then there were no dissenting voices. Joselu had his fourth goal of the season, and ultimately it would prove sufficient to grab a point, the value of which will only become apparent in the closing stages of a season where a cluster of clubs remaining anxiously looking over their shoulder.
You could not fault Newcastle’s start to the game. They made chances, and then missed them. Swansea bore the look of a side who had won only two of their last 16 games.
In the third minute Paul Dummett crossed and Dwight Gayle headed straight at Lukas Fabianksi in the visitors’ goal. Mo Diame shot wide of the far post with a drive, Gayle headed wide from a Perez cross and when the favour was returned Perez’s angled shot was comfortably saved.
Dummett went close with a shot and then Perez produced a lovely first touch when sent through by Ritchie but Fabianski saved well and the rebound was blocked by Ki Sung-Young.
Controversy would come in the 36th minute, and Swansea’s appeal for a penalty was quick but fairly vociferous. Tom Carroll’s right wing corner reached the unmarked Kyle Bartley. The centre half headed the ball goalwards and Mike Van der Hoorn flicked it on with his foot. It looked to be heading into the corner of the Newcastle goal but Diame, almost instinctively, followed its path with his left arm and raised it to deflect the ball away from goal.
Referee Graham Scott, unaided by VAR, waved played on, to the frustration of those in red shirts. Replays would show the handball looked intentional and that it stopped a goal. Diame could have seen the same colour as Swansea’s shirts.
There was almost insult to go with the injury. A minute later Newcastle thought they had the lead. A right wing Matt Ritchie corner was flicked-on at the near post by Jamaal Lascelles and Gayle, with his head, finally had the beating of Fabianski, but not the linesman, who flagged for a marginal offside.
Newcastle’s dominance was rarely threatened and a succession of chances continued to come their way. Perez slipped in Gayle in the 49th minute and he dragged his first-time shot from 20 yards narrowly wide of Fabianski’s near post.
And yet for all that, Swansea were in front by the hour mark.
Van der Horn crossed from he right and his ball split the defensive pairing of Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles and Ayew arrived to head goalwards. It needed a superb save from Karl Darlow, to his left, but the rebound went back to the same player and Ayew headed goalwards again, and this time the Newcastle goalkeeper could only touch the ball into his own net.
There was genuine delight in the visiting dugout. Benitez then replaced Gayle with Joselu. There was no roar for the replacement, but in the 68th minute, after Perez’s shot had been blocked, he produced a moment to finally ignite St James’ Park.
At the death, in the 93rd minute, DeAndre Yedlin blocked a Wilfried Bony shot on his own goal line, another unlikely hero for the home side.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey (Merino 82); Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Gayle (Joselu 64).
Swansea (4-4-2): Fabianksi; Van der Hoorn (Roberts 64), Bartley, Mawson, Olsson; Dyer (Narsingh 85), Ki, Clucas, Carroll; McBurnie (Bony 71), Ayew.