RELEGATION PENDULUM SWINGS IN NEWCASTLE'S FAVOUR
With the Premier League title race being one that is all but run, the focus shifts to matters lower down the table and although Champions League qualification always makes for healthy debate, one cannot forget the battle to avoid the drop either.
A battle that is either nearly complete or has seen more entrants dragged begrudgingly into proceedings and the reason for such development, is due to the fortunes of Newcastle in the past two weeks.
After coming from behind to capture a well-earned point at home to Tottenham eight days ago, it meant that the Magpies were three points clear of nearest rivals Fulham and most importantly, had a game in hand over the Cottagers.
While with Scott Parker’s men playing last Friday, it would mean one of two things and either Fulham would manage to erode Newcastle’s points buffer, or the St James’ Park outfit would be provided with an opportunity to go further clear.
With Fulham’s agonising late defeat at the hands of Wolves, it was advantage Newcastle or at least advantage pending, as focus soon shifted to their visit to Turf Moor and whether they could get anything out of Burnley on Sunday.
Something that looked unlikely when Matej Vydra put the hosts in front and at that point, everyone – Newcastle fans included, would have had every right to think that more of the same was about to materialise.
However, for all the stick that Steve Bruce receives and sometimes it is merited, there is an element of managerial nous there somewhere and this was evident in his decision to bring on Allan Saint-Maximin.
Such was his quickfire input, that Newcastle soon found themselves in the ascendancy and by earning another three massive points after their 2-1 comeback win, it puts them six points clear of Fulham in 17th.
Not only that, but it has also potentially dragged both Brighton and Burnley back into the relegation mix and if Fulham can find a couple of wins from somewhere, the Seagulls and the Clarets will not be able to breathe easy just yet.
Of course, Fulham now need to find at least one and if they were banking on taking the final day of the season to some form of de facto relegation play-off, that plan has been blown out of the water by Newcastle’s upturn in results.
Because as things stand, Newcastle can now go to Craven Cottage and lose what would be nothing more than a dead rubber and with Fulham losing their last four league outings, you do wonder just where at least a win for them will come from.
Then again, nobody gave Fulham a chance when they travelled to Liverpool recently and if the Premier League has taught us one thing, it is to expect the unexpected. Which subsequently means, the relegation race is far from over.
With that said, the outlook over Newcastle certainly looks a lot brighter this past week and if you were to put your money on any particular outcome, backing the Magpies to stay up would now be a rather shrewd move.