September 6, 2017
The latest on Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough a month into the season
We’ve reached the end of a busy month with Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough having played a combined total of 17 games. The closing of the transfer window, new managers at Sunderland and Middlesbrough and speculation about Rafa Benitez’s long-term future on Tyneside have provided lots to keep an eye on as the season gets going.
Sunderland appointed Simon Grayson, as they look to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt. Garry Monk made the short hop over to Teesside, as he left Leeds for a Middlesbrough side which harbours ambitions of promotion after an underwhelming campaign in the top flight. Rafa Benitez has the sizeable task of guiding a Newcastle squad short on quality to Premier League safety after last season’s championship title.
The International break provides a welcome respite for Garry Monk and Simon Grayson whose sides both finished the month disappointingly. Newcastle gained a crucial 3 points at home to West Ham, but disappointment in the transfer market since then, leaves Newcastle with much to ponder as we head into September. Above all it has been a case of mixed fortunes for the three North East clubs in August.
Sunderland kicked off the season in front of the Sky cameras at home to Derby. A one-all draw with the Rams was followed up by a hard-fought win in the EFL Cup and an impressive 3-1 victory away at Norwich.
New signing Lewis Grabban made an instant impact; tucking away a penalty to earn the Black Cats a point against Derby, as well as two well taken goals the following weekend in the win over Norwich.
Such are the rigours of the Championship, Sunderland were back in action 3 days later at Sheffield Wednesday. George Honeyman’s early goal gave Sunderland a share of the spoils in a testing encounter. The one-all draw was followed by a flat performance against Leeds, as Grayson’s men slumped to their first defeat of the season. Sunderland finished the month scraping past a determined Carlisle side in the EFL Cup, before putting in their worst performance of the season losing 3-0 to Barnsley.
Middlesbrough’s August fixture list provided some winnable home games but two tough looking trips to Wolves and Nottingham Forest. Wolves, who’d been one of the busiest clubs in the window, had too much for Boro, winning 1-0. Middlesbrough bounced back with consecutive wins at the Riverside. A Rudy Gestede header was enough to earn 3 points against Sheffield United. Club record signing Britt Assombalonga bagged his first goals of the season, helping himself to a brace against 10-man Burton, to make it two wins in two. Nottingham Forest proved too strong for Boro, who lost 2-1 on a disappointing day at the City Ground for Garry Monk.
A first away win of the season did come soon enough, with Boro romping to a 3-0 win over Scunthorpe albeit in the EFL Cup. Youngsters Ashley Fletcher and Lewis Baker, signed from West Ham and Chelsea, got their first goals for the club. Boro lost some of their building momentum when they returned to action in the Championship. Monk’s side were unable to get past a stubborn Preston outfit and had to settle for a nil-all draw.
Newcastle haven’t had quite the schedule of the other two clubs, but have endured a bumpy start. The opening day excitement when the Magpies welcomed Spurs to St James’ Park was somewhat lacking with fans disappointed by the lack of summer arrivals.
New signings Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo were handed their debuts in a Newcastle defence which was let down by Jonjo Shelvey’s moment of madness. Shelvey’s red proved costly. Spurs scored twice in quick succession to earn their first points of the season.
Newcastle only had themselves to blame the following week. Fellow newcomers Huddersfield capitalised on a lacklustre display from the Mags to earn a 1-0 victory. The backlash following the defeat at Huddersfield intensified; Newcastle succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup. Rolando Aarons’ stunning goal put Newcastle on level terms with Forest, but it was Forest who deservedly found a late winner when the game went into Extra Time.
Newcastle had to dust themselves off quickly for the visit of West Ham. With both sides winless after their first two games of the season, it was a must-win game. Rafa’s side duly responded. A goal from new striker Joselu on his home debut, alongside goals from Clark and Mitrovic gave the Magpies a much deserved 3-0 victory. The result was slightly tarnished by a moment of stupidity from Mitrovic, who later received a 3-game ban for elbowing Manuel Lanzini.
The optimism that followed the win over West Ham has since been replaced by anguish and frustration across Tyneside. Benitez stuck to his word, moving out 4 players in the final 48 hours of the window, yet the club didn’t sanction any new arrivals. Newcastle fans will hope this isn’t the last straw for Benitez, but it may well be…
For Sunderland and Middlesbrough, there’s plenty to work on going into September, but both sides know the importance of stringing a few wins together if they want to mount a serious promotion challenge.