Another International break brings to a close a September of contrasting fortunes for Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Newcastle find themselves in the comfort of mid table after a string of impressive displays. Sunderland have endured a dreadful run over September which has plunged them into the relegation zone, whilst an improving Boro have struggled for consistency leaving them in 11th place.
Simon Grayson may be starting to feel the heat from the Sunderland board, and it’s easy to see why. 5 defeats from 7 games has done little to lift the gloom on Wearside. A double from Clayton Donaldson and a late winner from former Sunderland striker Daryl Murphy made it back to back home defeats for Grayson’s men. The fixture list didn’t get much kinder as Sunderland then had to head to the KC stadium to face promotion contenders Hull City. A second half equaliser from David Meyler cancelled out James Vaughan’s opener to prevent Sunderland claiming what would have otherwise been a valuable 3 points.
The third round of the EFL Cup put Sunderland up against an Everton side low on confidence. It would be an easy night for the Toffees though, as they strolled to a 3-0 win. A fixture at home to Cardiff City 3 days later was a good chance for Sunderland to register a first win of the month. Despite clawing themselves back into the game, visitors Cardiff, took all 3 points thanks to Joe Ralls’ penalty. Things went from bad to worse in Sunderland’s next game. A dire Tuesday night in Suffolk saw them handsomely beaten by Ipswich Town 5-2. Sunderland ended the month with a trip to Grayson’s former club Preston. An end to end game, and an improved performance by all accounts, saw Sunderland claim a 2-2 draw to arrest a run of defeats. However, there’s much work to do as Sunderland find themselves second from bottom at the foot of the table.
A good first half of the month was slightly cancelled out by a frustrating second half of the month for Middlesbrough. A strong 3-0 win away at Bolton followed up by a point in a fiery encounter with Aston Villa was a decent return from Boro’s first 2 games. The absence of Adama Traore against QPR after his red card at Villa Park, didn’t prove too costly as Garry Monk’s side came from behind twice to beat QPR 3-2 at the Riverside. That momentum was built on as a double from Patrick Bamford saw off Aston Villa, this time in the 3rd round of the League Cup. A late equaliser courtesy of Cyrus Christie ensured that Boro maintained their undefeated run with a 1-all draw away at Slaviša Jokanović’s Fulham. Monk’s side had no answer to James Maddison’s early goal in their game at home to Norwich. This made it a first defeat in 8 games for Boro. They were unable to return to winning ways in the final game of the month though. Second half goals from Braithwaite and Fabio were not enough to see off an impressive Brentford side that took the lead twice in an entertaining 2-all draw. Monk’s side seem to be finding their feet nicely though as they sit just four points off the play-off’s going into the International Break.
After the disappointments of transfer deadline day, a first away Premier League win since 2015, was the perfect tonic for Newcastle fans who’d made the long trip down to Swansea on a Sunday afternoon. Jamaal Lascelles’ towering header after his brilliant goal-line clearance proved to be the difference. The absence of Rafa Benitez in the dugout, who was still recovering from a recent hernia operation, didn’t seem to matter. A home game with Stoke the following week looked like a chance to make it 3 wins on the spin. Another winner from Lascelles was enough to earn all 3 points after Xherdan Shaqiri had cancelled out Christian Atsu’s first half goal. The following weekend saw Newcastle head down to the South Coast to face fellow promoted side Brighton. Joselu’s first half miss proved costly as Tomar Hemed’s set piece strike in the 51st minute proved to be the difference between the two sides. Newcastle’s final game before the International break was against a Liverpool side who have much quality going forward but are less sure of themselves at the back. A moment of brilliance from Philippe Coutinho left Rob Elliot grasping at thin air. A well-organised Benitez side which had been set up to frustrate Liverpool, managed a response 10 minutes before half time. Jonjo Shelvey’s defence splitting pass was eventually finished off by Joselu. Joel Matip’s last ditch tackle bounced off the shin of the Spanish striker and rolled past the helpless Simon Mignolet, much to the delight of St James’ Park. A good point as a determined Newcastle side executed Rafa Benitez’s game plan to claim a point against one of the members of the top six. This leaves Newcastle in ninth and just a win off fifth-placed Arsenal.